Exploring a new city, whether by foot, car or public transport, is a good way to get acquainted with a new home. 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, although these systems might not be all that sophisticated or modern in comparison to the networks in other more affluent cities such as New York, San Francisco or Chicago, getting around New Orleans is fairly safe and easy.
Whether or not new arrivals opt to invest in a car will depend on their personal circumstances and budget. While it isn't essential to have a vehicle, it can make life easier, especially for those relocating with children. New arrivals located close to the downtown area, or with easy access to the public transport network, may not need to worry about driving till they find their feet in New Orleans. In fact, it may in fact be less stressful to get around in these central parts of New Orleans without a car.
Public transport in New Orleans
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) is the body that oversees the public transport network in the Crescent City, which consist of buses, the iconic streetcars and ferries. 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 USA, which is reassuring for new arrivals.
Public transport rates are fairly reasonable in New Orleans, but for those who plan on using the system regularly, it is worth investing in a weekly or monthly Jazzy pass, which affords the user unlimited travel on both buses and streetcars with quite a significant saving.
New residents will also find the NORTA GoMobile app to be a useful resource when it comes to getting around New Orleans. Commuters can use this app to pay for passes on all forms of public transportations, and it allows them to map their journeys, access transport schedules and track when the next streetcar, bus or ferry is due to arrive.
The bus network in New Orleans is fairly extensive, comprising of over 30 different routes, which serve a wider range of neighbourhoods than those covered by streetcars.
Most routes operate around the clock, which means that bus travel is a highly convenient way of getting around for most people. 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. There are four main lines that extend through the city’s central neighbourhoods. Some streetcar routes run through the night while others stop running at midnight, so it is best to plan journeys using the NORTA website or mobile app. The frequency of streetcar services varies depending on the route and the time of day but, generally, they arrive at 15–30 minute intervals.
There are two ferry routes in operation in New Orleans. The first route, which allows cars on, connects Chalmette in the east of the city with Algiers on the west bank of the Mississippi. This route isn’t all that popular owing to the fact that there is also a traffic bridge that crosses the river at similar points and is, therefore, more convenient for most people. The second, more frequently used Canal Street ferry connects French Quarter to Algiers Point. This service is for commuters only so while pets, bikes and scooters are allowed, cars aren’t.
Generally, ferries run every hour from 6 am to 9.45 pm on most days and from 10.30am to 11.45 pm on Fridays and Saturday. 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, unless one is travelling from a major tourist hotspot or hotel, they aren’t easy to simply flag down. However, these days most New Orleans taxi companies have mobile apps that 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 some smaller companies can offer a more efficient service at a local level.
E-hailing services in New Orleans
Popular e-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are pretty 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 choice onto their smartphone 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 the Mardi Gras.
Pedicabs in New Orleans
Pedicabs are a type of rickshaw-style vehicle that commonly operates throughout the French Quarter, downtown New Orleans area 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 about the city. For newcomers to the city, pedicabs are certainly a fun way to get acquainted with central parts of New Orleans
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, pay the 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 great places for a leisurely stroll. In fact, taking a car to these parts is often nothing short of a nightmare.
Living in areas further away from central New Orleans means that residents are more likely to need a car and having a personal vehicle is especially useful for those with children as it affords residents more freedom to get around the city according to their own schedule.
Driving in New Orleans
Whether or not one needs a car in New Orleans will depend on personal circumstances as well as one’s choice of residential neighbourhood.
Driving isn’t always easy in parts of New Orleans. Much of the city was designed before people were commonly using cars to get around, so newcomers will find that many of the streets are incredibly narrow and operate on one-way systems. 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, for residents living in the suburbs having a car can be useful. Driving gives new arrivals more freedom to explore the city and its surrounds at their own pace. Parents will also find that having a car makes things easier when it comes to transporting children about.
►Learn about NOLA's best annual events on our What's On in New Orleans page
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