Pleasurable public transportation: It’s not an oxymoron, it’s the St. Charles Streetcar

I’ve never been a big fan of public transportation. Some of the most haunting memories of my childhood involve a frantic, sweaty race to the bus stop, a mere three blocks from my house, and helplessly watching the bus pull away from the curb just as I came within inches of the door. I still see the bus driver’s face, a bitter, older woman who would yell at us for the slightest wrong and (seemingly) leave stragglers behind on purpose, getting a cheap thrill from making kids cry. Oh and the smell! Unwashed bodies pressed together, armpits in your face, terrible body odor and truly bad breath are also excellent reasons to stay off the bus.

I realize there are a tons of great reasons to use public transportation as well; it’s inexpensive, good for the environment, reduces traffic levels, it’s relatively safe and you get to be a passenger all the time, avoiding the stress of driving in traffic. But I just could never really enjoy it, if you get my drift. That is, I couldn’t until I started using the St. Charles Streetcar.

Ever since our car died, John and I have employed the streetcar to get around and for the first time in my life, I actually revel in this classic and historic form of transport. Yes, you still get the strange odors, press of bodies and times when you miss the dark green streetcar by a hair, but it all washes away in the joy of riding slowly down the Avenue under the gorgeous Oak canopy, listening to the animated conversations of excited tourists pointing out their favorite grand mansion as it passes by.

I don’t know about you, but after the federal flood when the streets were eerily silent and everyone was inside their homes, behind locked doors after dark — one of the sounds I missed the most was the rumble of a passing streetcar. It simply wasn’t New Orleans without it. It wasn’t until the St. Charles Streetcar started running again that I finally felt like the city was really recovering.

Now, I look forward to taking the streetcar downtown. I’m all smiles waiting at the stop and even if we just miss one, we know another will be along in 15 or 20 minutes. I love sitting by the window, letting the warm air blow back my hair and cause my eyes to water. John always teases me, but I love talking to the people from out of town about New Orleans and when they realize I’m local, they ask all kinds of questions…looking for the best place to dine or have a few cocktails. I love the ambling pace and how the drivers will sometimes stop and chat with other drivers coming in the opposite direction, there is no sense of hurry or any frantic pace they have to set.

Just recently when we attended the French Quarter Festival, John and I got some really great shots of people and scenes inside the streetcar on the way downtown. John has a knack for getting sneaky shots of folk without their knowledge, but I think you can get an idea of how wonderful it is to ride! And what about our car, you ask? I don’t even miss it…

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  1. This summer i lived uptown in s Carrollton and everyday i took the streetcar downdown and i enjoyed every ride. I LOVE St Charles streetcar! i love the noise it makes, the beautiful houses too look at, the oak canopy and the breeze when it´s hot in july! what a treasure it is.

    And – hello Todd!;-)

  2. One of my favorite memories of New Orleans is riding the streetcar on a hot, humid June day. Like you, it's the memory of the wind in my face and slow pace of the ride. Thank you for sharing and reminding me of a beautiful day in my past.

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