Exploring a new city, whether by foot, car or public transport, is a good way to get acquainted with it. Luckily for those moving to New Orleans, the transport infrastructure is fairly solid. Buses, streetcars and ferries make up the city's public transport network, and getting around New Orleans is safe and easy.
Public transport in New Orleans
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA or more commonly referred to as RTA) is the body that oversees the public transport network in the city. While New Orleans may not boast the most sophisticated public transportation network, it has been deemed to have one of the safest systems in the US.
New residents will also find the NORTA GoMobile app to be a useful resource. Commuters can use this app to pay for passes on all forms of public transportation, and it allows them to map their journeys, access transport schedules and track when the next streetcar, bus or ferry is due to arrive.
Public transport rates are reasonable in New Orleans. That said, for those who plan on using the system regularly, it is worth investing in a weekly or monthly Jazzy pass, which offers the user unlimited travel on RTA buses and streetcars.
The bus network in New Orleans is extensive, comprising more than 30 different routes, most of which operate around the clock. On average, buses run every 30 minutes, but services are often more frequent along the busier routes.
Trams, commonly known as streetcars in New Orleans, are a popular mode of transportation in the city. Four main lines extend through the city’s central neighbourhoods. The NORTA website and mobile app come in handy when checking whether streetcar routes run through the night or stop at midnight. The frequency of streetcar services varies depending on the route and the time of day, but they generally run in 15–30 minute intervals.
There are two ferry routes in operation in New Orleans. The first route connects Chalmette in the east of the city with Algiers on the west bank of the Mississippi, and it transports cars as well. That said, the route is made a bit redundant by the presence of a bridge. The second, more frequently used Canal Street ferry connects the French Quarter to Algiers Point. This ferry is only for commuters, pets, bikes and scooters.
Ferries run every hour from 6am to 9.45pm on most days, but from 10.30am to 11.45pm on Fridays and Saturdays. During the Mardi Gras and other large annual festivals, extra ferry services are provided with extended operating hours.
Taxis in New Orleans
While taxis are readily available in New Orleans, they aren’t always easy to flag down. Having said that, most New Orleans taxi companies have mobile apps nowadays, which make it easier to schedule a ride ahead of time.
United Cabs is the most prominent cab company in New Orleans and has the largest fleet of vehicles. This company mainly operates in the downtown part of New Orleans. New arrivals should also investigate which taxi operators work in their particular neighbourhood, as these may offer better prices in some cases.
E-hailing services in New Orleans
Popular e-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are well established in New Orleans. Fares are similar to taxi prices, but most people find e-hailing to be more reliable and efficient. Users simply need to download the app of their choice and register using a credit card.
It is important to note that there are regular price surges on these apps during big annual events such as Mardi Gras.
Pedicabs in New Orleans
Pedicabs are a type of rickshaw-style vehicle that commonly operates throughout the French Quarter, downtown New Orleans and Warehouse District. Although these are unlikely to be used on a daily basis, they are a good option for short trips in high-traffic areas.
Generally, they tend to be used by tourists and visitors to New Orleans, as the operators tend to act as tour guides as well, providing useful information and recommendations.
Cycling in New Orleans
New Orleans is a bicycle-friendly city and the authorities have made a concerted effort to improve infrastructure for cyclists by expanding cycle routes, accommodating bikes on buses and ferries, and installing safe bicycle storage facilities around the city centre.
Blue Bikes is the name of New Orleans’ bike-share programme. Users simply need to register online to see a map of all the bike hubs in the city. The app allows people to reserve a bike at a particular hub ahead of time. Cyclists using Blue Bikes can either opt to pay by the minute or, if they plan to use the service more regularly, a monthly flat rate for unlimited usage.
Walking in New Orleans
Walking is a great way to see New Orleans during the day and early evening but some areas are more suitable for exploring on foot than others. Central areas such as the French Quarter, downtown New Orleans and Marigny are well suited for walking.
Public transport tend to be less reliable further from the city centre, and expats who live in outlying suburbs may prefer to have their own wheels, especially those with children.
Driving in New Orleans
Driving isn’t always easy in New Orleans. Much of the city was designed before people were using cars to get around, so newcomers will find that many of the streets are incredibly narrow with plenty of one-ways. Road conditions are also sub-par for what is considered a developed city and drivers should be aware of potholes. Parking is often hard to find and expensive in central parts of New Orleans. Also, drivers moving to New Orleans should brush up on their parallel parking skills before getting behind the wheel.
That said, a personal vehicle can certainly simplify the lives of residents in the suburbs, particularly parents. A car also gives new arrivals more freedom to explore the city and its surroundings at their own pace.