Tivoli Circle connected the CBD with Union Station.
NOPSI 934, heading outbound on the St. Charles line, 1968. John LeBeau photo, via Aaron Handy, III. Here’s Aaron’s caption from Facebook:
Outbound Charley car 934 coming off Saint Charles Avenue to round the former Lee Circle, piggybacked by NOPSI GMC New Look 18, assigned to Freret. October 23, 1968. (John LeBeau collection.)
NOPSI 934 was one of the thirty-five 900-series arch roof cars to make the cut in 1964. It was one of the 1923-24 streetcars ordered by New Orleans Public Service, Inc. While New Orleans Railway and Light Company ordered arch roofs in 1915, things changed by 1923. The transit company in New Orleans re-organized as NOPSI. Mr. Perley A. Thomas took his arch roof design from Southern Car Company, opening his own business in High Point, NC. The NOPSI order was so big, Thomas had to sub-contract it to other manufacturers.
Tivoli to Lee to…?
As streetcar traffic from Uptown increased in the 1870s, the city converted the intersection of St. Charles Avenue and Delord Street (later Howard Avenue) into a traffic circle. The re-design made it easier for streetcars to curve off into the Central Business District or down to Union Station. The city named the roundabout “Tivoli Place,” after the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1884, the White League petitioned the city to construct a monument to the traitor Lee at the roundabout. The city authorized the construction of “Lee Place” in 1877. While the monument and the small park surrounding it was named for the rebel general, the roundabout remained “Place du Tivoli.” Over time, however, the names merged, and locals called it “Lee Circle.” The column at the center of Place du Tivoli remains, even though Alexander Doyle’s statue is in storage.
General Motors produced their “New Look” buses from 1958 to 1979. NOPSI purchased a number of these buses. While Flxible Company buses replaced the streetcars on the Canal Street line in 1964, New Look buses also traveled the city’s streets. In this photo, NOPSI 18, operating on the Freret line, follows NOPSI 934.
The Canal Lakeshore bus took over for the West End line.
Canal Lakeshore bus
Photo of Canal Street, showing Flxible buses operating on the various “Canal Street” lines, after the conversion of the Canal line to buses in 1964. NOPSI cut back streetcar operations on Canal Street to a single block, on what was the inbound outside track. Arch roof streetcars on the St. Charles line, like the one in the photo. I can’t make out which of the 35 remaining 1923-vintage streetcars makes the turn on the left side. If you can sort it out, let me know. The photographer stands in the “Canal Street Zone,” just on the river side of St. Charles Avenue.
Post-streetcar Canal buses
The official name for the line NOPSI 314 rolls on in this photo is, “Canal – Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Boulevard.” Here’s the route.
- Canal Street and the river
- “Canal Street Zone” lakebound to Claiborne Avenue
- Merge into auto lanes at Claiborne, continue outbound to City Park Avenue
- Left turn at City Park Avenue
- Right Turn at West End Blvd.
- Left turn under the Pontchartrain Expressway (later I-10) overpass at Metairie Road.
- Right turn onto Pontchartrain Boulevard
- Continue outbound on Pontchartrain Boulevard
- Right-turn on Fleur-de-lis Avenue (prior to I-10)
- Curve around on Pontchartrain Blvd, go under I-10, continue to Fleur-de-Lis. Left turn onto Fleur-de-Lis. (after I-10)
- Lakebound on Fleur-de-Lis to Veterans
- Right on Veterans to West End Blvd.
- Left on West End to Robert E. Lee Blvd. (Now Allen Toussant Blvd.)
- Right on Toussaint to Canal Blvd.
- Left on Canal Blvd to bus terminal at the lake.
- Depart Canal Blvd terminal, riverbound.
- Right turn on Toussaint to Pontchartrain Blvd.
- Pontchartrain Blvd to Veterans, right turn on Veterans
- Left turn on Fleur-de-Lis
- Fleur-de-Lis back to Pontchartrain Blvd.
- Pontchartrain Blvd to City Park Avenue
- Left on City Park Avenue, the right onto Canal Street
- Canal Street, riverbound to the river.
This route, was one of the main killers of the Canal streetcars. Air-conditioning all the way into town. No change from West End to the streetcar at City Park Avenue.
Canal buses in the 1970s
By the time I rode the Canal buses in the 1970s, on my way to and from Brother Martin, I could hop on any of the three Canal lines, to get to City Park Avenue. Canal Cemeteries ended at City Park Avenue. Canal-Lake Vista and Canal-Lakeshore split there, but all I needed was to get to the outbound Veterans bus.
Tulane Trackless Trolley, a trolley bus operating on the Tulane line in 1963.
Tulane Trackless Trolley
A trolley bus (also known as a trolley coach or trackless trolley) from the St. Louis Car Company. Photo is of New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) 1190, operating on the Tulane line. The bus rolls inbound on Canal Street, approaching S. Saratoga Street. Hotel New Orleans stands just behind the bus. An ad for American General Insurance (now AIG) occupies the space on the front of the bus. American General’s office was at 222 Carondelet.
NOPSI trolley buses
NOPSI purchased trolley buses from both the St. Louis Car Company and Marmon-Herrington of Indianapolis, Indiana. They operated the electric buses on transit routes formerly running streetcars. So, when the company discontinued streetcar “belt” service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines, St. Charles continued operating streetcars. Tulane trackless trolleys operated until 1965. At that time, all trolley bus lines converted to standard buses.
The Hotel New Orleans
This photo caught my eye because of the sign behind the trolley bus. The Hotel New Orleans stood at 1300 Canal Street. The building dates to the 1930s. The hotel sported a huge neon sign proclaiming “HOTEL NEW ORLEANS.” That neon sign is visible in the background of so many photos of Canal Street. While the rooftop sign is ubiquitous, the street-level sign is a neat catch.
My friend Aaron posted this photo on Facebook. He catches stuff from everywhere. Looking for more info on NOPSI 1190, I turned to Streetcar Mike. This is his copy of the photo, with the credits. Here’s his entry for 1190:
St. Louis 1190 on the Tulane line at Canal and S. Saratoga Sts. on an unknown date. I presume it’s after 1957, when the Canal neutral ground was rebuilt to eliminate the unused outer streetcar tracks. Hotels and bars dominate this section of Canal just out from the Joy Theatre (out of picture to the left). Photo comes from the collection of Gerald Squier courtesy of Scott Richards and was added 03/22/14.
Thanks to Mike and the photo sources!
1964 Transit Improvement Program ended the Canal streetcar line.
1964 Transit Improvement
Flyer updating riders on the 1964 Transit Improvement Program. New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) planned the removal of streetcars from the Canal Street line for May 31, 1964. While advocacy groups organized in late 1963/early 1964 to oppose the program, it was too little, too late. The plans for this removal began in late 1959.
This flyer emphasizes the advantages of switching Canal to bus service. NOPSI rolled out new buses as part of this “improvement.” Those Flixible company buses were air-conditioned. Riders in Lakeview and Lakeshore could get on the bus close to the house and ride all the way into the CBD.
This flyer promotes the Phase 2 changes. In Phase 1 of 1964 Transit Improvement, the city cut back the width of the Canal Street neutral ground. This allowed for three traffic lanes on either side of the street. When streetcars returned to Canal Street in 2004, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA, successor to NOPSI’s transit operations) built a single-track terminal at Canal Street and City Park Avenue. There was no space to re-create the two-track end of the line. So, at the time, New Orleanians approved these changes. Preservationists were caught off guard.
NOPSI immediately cut down the electric overhead wires on 31-May-1964, as part of Phase 2 of 1964 Transit Improvement. The city ripped up the streetcar tracks within weeks of the switch to buses. Additionally, the air-conditioning started on 31-May.
NOPSI expanded the “suburban” bus lines. They extended buses going to West End and Lakeview into downtown. Streetcars on the Canal line ended their runs at City Park Avenue. So, a rider living, say, off Fleur-de-Lis Avenue walked to Pontchartrain Blvd. They caught the bus to City Park Avenue, transferring there to the streetcar. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, NOPSI discovered an opportunity. The rider starts on a bus with a/c, but switches to a hot, humid streetcar. If it’s raining, well, you get the idea.
Additionally, NOPSI offered an enhanced service, the “express” lines. Express 80 followed the Canal-Lake Vista (via Canal Boulevard) route. For an extra nickel, riders boarded Express 80 rather than the regular line. When the express bus reached City Park Avenue, Express 80 made no stops until Claiborne Avenue. Same for Express 81, which followed the Canal-Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Boulevard line. So that rider could not only stay on the bus from home, they got to the office that much quicker.
Downtown workers relied upon public transit so much more in 1964. When something is part of your day-to-day routine, improvements that enhance your experience are easy to sell. Preserving forty-year old streetcars didn’t seem like a big deal compared to not sweating through your clothes by the time you arrived at work.
Thanks to Aaron Handy, III, for this image of the flyer!
French Quarter mini-bus offered an alternative to standard-size buses.
French Quarter mini-bus
NOPSI 1002, a “Flxette” from the Flxible Company, going down Chartres Street in 1980. NOPSI operated a “French Quarter” line, replacing standard buses with these minis. They re-routed regular bus lines to Decatur and N. Rampart Streets. This lessened the impact of larger buses on the interior streets of the Quarter. While the route changes for standard buses remain, the mini-bus line was not successful. In this photo, NOPSI 1002 passes the side of the Royal Orleans Hotel.
Streetcar lines regularly transited the interior of the French Quarter, dating back to the days of mule-drawn operation. Streetcars traveled inbound on Royal Street. They reached Canal Street, turned right, then right again on Bourbon Street. Bourbon served as the outlet for the outbound leg of a number of lines.
As NOPSI discontinued streetcar operations on all but St. Charles and Canal, buses took over on the same routes. Diesel and gas exhaust fumes flooded the streets. The weight of the buses shook the streets and the buildings lining them. As the city became more conscious of long-term damage to historic buildings, buses moved up on their radar.
The Landrieu administration and the City Council studied the problem of buses in the Quarter in the late 1970s. Concerns related to preservation moved up the agendas. They concluded it was time to pull buses out of the Quarter.
NOPSI buses weren’t the only problem, though. Tour buses from a number of companies, along with motor coaches from commercial companies, transporting convention attendees and other visitors to Quarter hotels. So, the rumble-bumble of big vehicles had to go.
The city implemented French Quarter mini-bus use in 1978. NOPSI acquired the “Flxette’ vehicles for use on the “French Quarter” transit line. The city banned large buses of all kinds outright. Private transportation companies complained, but they adopted.
Thanks to Aaron Handy, III for this photo!
This bus accident, on the Gentilly line, involves a NOPSI bus, a car, and a building.
photo courtesy HNOC
Bus accident 1950
NOPSI 1547, a White Motor Company bus, operating on the Gentilly line. At 6:40 AM on 26-May-1950, Franck Studios documented a bus accident at Royal Street and Elysian Fields Avenue. The bus swerved, possibly having something to do with the white car to the left. The driver crashed the bus into a building. NOPD controlled the scene. Lots of bystanders observe the scene. It’s unclear how many of them were passengers.
The NOPD truck on the right side appears to be a rescue/emergency vehicle. While rescue responded, the closeness of the crowd indicates that passengers exited the vehicle without assistance.
NOPSI 1547 bore the maroon-and-cream livery of buses at the time. The older buses continued operation until into the 1970s, mostly on neighborhood lines.
The Gentilly line
NOPSI inaugurated the Gentilly transit line in 1926. The 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars traveled the line from its opening until 1948. NOPSI discontinued streetcars in 1948. White Motor Company buses replaced streetcars at that time.
The Gentilly line ran from Canal Street, down Bourbon to Pauger, then Dauphine, then Franklin. The streetcars ran out to Dreux Avenue on Franklin. The return was Franklin to Royal to Canal. So, this bus accident occurred on the inbound run. The line was later renamed to Franklin.
Servicing the war effort
The Gentilly line brought workers out to the military posts and factories on the Lakefront in the 1940s. Riders rode the streetcar to Gentilly Boulevard, or possibly to the end of the line at Dreux. They transferred to the “Bomber Base” bus line. That bus ran to the lakefront. Bomber Base received its name because the Army posted a squadron of coastal defense aircraft there. The planes used Lakefront Airport, and the unit was posted where the FBI and military reserve buildings are now.