Navigating New Orleans: The Low-Down on Transportation

new orleans streetcar

The streetcar named Desire shut down in 1948, but you can still get to most of the main attractions in New Orleans on its historic trolley system.  Follow these tips, and you’ll be exploring The Crescent City like a pro faster than you can say Tchoupitoulas.

Fares – Streetcars and buses cost $1.25, paid as you board, and drivers only give change in future ride cards, not money.  You can ride all day for $3 with a Jazzy Pass, which is a good deal if you want the flexibility to hop off when you see something interesting.

St. Charles Avenue Streetcar – “The Green One” –The world’s longest continually-operating streetcar is an experience in itself.  While you sit in the charming, vintage car, you can look out the window at historic mansions and a canopy of ancient oaks.  There are plenty of great places to stop along the way, including The Avenue Pub, The Columns Hotel, and Audubon Park and Zoo.

Canal St. Streetcar – “The Red One” – Reinstated in the aughts, the Canal Street streetcar takes you from downtown to Mid-City, culminating either at a collection of historic cemeteries or at New Orleans’ massive, fantastic City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art.  If it’s Jazz Fest time, the City Park/Museum route ends so close to The Fairgrounds you may already hear the music.  If you’re looking for a bite to eat on the Canal Street Line, try Mandina’s, Theo’s Pizza, or any of the collection of restaurants surrounding the Canal and Carrollton Avenue stop.

The Riverfront Streetcar – The baby of the streetcar lines, it appropriately runs parallel to the river from The Convention Center to the French Market.

Loyola/UPTStreetcar – If you’re arriving by train, you’re in luck.  There is a brand new streetcar line right outside the Amtrak station to take you and your luggage on the short journey to downtown and the French Quarter.  You’ll have no trouble finding the stop.

Magazine Street #11 Bus – There are so many great shops, restaurants and bars on the four-mile stretch of Magazine Street that you may be tempted to stroll the whole thing.  But when you get tired, the #11 is a swift and convenient alternative, and is by far the coolest bus in town.

Transportation from the Airport – Ground transportation options from the airport to the French Quarter include flat rate taxis and shuttles, as well as the E2 public express bus. Current taxi rates are $33 total for 1-2 passengers, or $14 per passenger for groups of 3 or more.  The airport shuttle, which drops you off at downtown hotels, costs $20 per person (discounted a solitary buck to $19 if you buy a round-trip ticket.)

If you’re looking to save as much money as possible for sazerac cocktails, the cheapest option by far is to take the E2 Airport-Downtown Express public bus, operated by Jefferson Transit.  The fare is only $2.  The E2 drops you off in downtown New Orleans in about 35 minutes, stopping only 3 times en route, so you won’t be that far behind your friends in the taxi if you leave around the same time.  This all sounds great, but beware!  The E2 doesn’t run its full route to the French Quarter during nights and weekends.  On weekdays, this diva of a bus stops running to its downtown stop after only 6:14 p.m.  So where will you end up if you get on the bus on a Saturday or a weeknight?  You’ll be dropped off in Mid-City at the intersection of Carrollton Avenue and Tulane Avenue – not the nicest part of Mid-City.  You can catch another bus to keep heading downtown, but if it’s late at night, you could be waiting a while.  The lesson here is to check the schedule before you decide to take the E2.

Car Rentals and Driving – Parking is pretty easy in New Orleans, except downtown and the French Quarter, where it can be difficult.  No matter where you are, always check and double-check all the signs.  Also keep in mind that there are red light and speed cameras scattered throughout the city, so pay attention to speed limits, stopping in crosswalks, and roll stops.  Also, don’t head into town in your low-riding sports car; NOLA roads are known for their impressive variety of potholes. [/sociallocker] 

About the author

A New Orleans native, Katie Broyles is always happy to return home to the City that Care Forgot in between her many travels. She has visited over 25 countries (but feels that this isn’t nearly enough), has greatly improved her French at international volunteer camps, and is currently fanatical about Reykjavík, Iceland, and Vilnius, Lithuania. Her travel writing has previously appeared in Transitions Abroad Magazine.

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