Spent a Monday after a family weekend in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. We made a point of staying in the same hotel I first stayed in 32 years ago, when my grandparents first brought me to New Orleans for the World’s Fair. That was a tremendous visit, as I was forming my opinions about the world, and a revelation compared to the landscape of Atlanta. Even though I grew up in a trolley suburb of Atlanta, I had never seen anything like a true walkable grid, with plenty of people walking everywhere.
Our walking was constrained by our age and our grandparents, who had some very clear boundaries about the Vieux Carre and Bourbon street for me and my 14 year-old cousin. Still, what we saw of the French Quarter that weekend was amazing, and memorable. It was a hot August weekend, with me and my cousin in one room and our grandparents in the other. There was a pop radio station whose programming was to play the top 10* on hard repeat.
This time, we did this like adults and walked where we might. I am writing this on the flight home and we are almost completely satisfied with our walking tour around the quarter. We found a map of a walking tour that started from the river and wound up near lunch at Acme Oyster House. We proceeded from the river to nothing like on that walking tour, and saw so much more than a dutiful drudge through the milestones of antiquity. We took all the pictures we wanted, because the last tome I was here it was with a film camera.
The striking thing about those pictures was the number of people, gateways, stairs, and balconies n them. Not the realm of traffic. Walkers even had the temerity to walk in the street. I even walked in the street, especially when the crush of walkers on the sidewalks of Sourbon or the heft of tourists along the garden of domain slowed too much. There was little risk of being hit by a car because the streets were barely passable by traffic. The odyssey from Lafayette had been speedy and new through the southern arc of Evangeline Thruway, until the last mile to our hotel in the French Quarter, during a festival. We had to ask permission to be allowed down the street. I may as well have left my foot off the gas as our giant Nissan Sentra lumbered through the crowds of revelers. The police and emergency service had downsized their fleet for the quarter to Polaris vehicles the better to fit through crowds and in between parking spaces.
Given this, I wanted to look this week at that the data said about the Frnech Quarter. If it si so walkable, how does it’s walkability show up on national survey s of things like the journey to work or walkable intensity of jobs and housing. There are also issues of diversity and suitability with the French Quarter. A lot of the commerce is retail oriented to tourists, so the ideal French Quarter walking commuter would be a retail service worker. But those salaries don’t pay the rents to live in the French Quarter. Not unless you’re willing to violate some housing codes and lose all privacy. But if the workers there can’t live there, then do they drive? If they do, where do they park their cars?
There are are whole blocks of former warehouses taken up by single level parking near the river, but that doesn’t account for all the workers of the French Quarter.
So what does? Here’s the commutes from within the French Quarter using walk (brown), transit (green), or bike (purple)
And here’s the number of commuters using traffic for their commute. Very similar numbers.
Next, here’s the jobs (green), and housing (brown) numbers in the French Quarter.
And this is the “walkable intensity”. Each gradation of color is a multiple of 14 (HU+Jobs)/Acre, with darkest blue representing four times the minimal walkable intensity.
I’d like to see a census of commute modes to work by workplace, but not by residence. This is the missing piece in the transportation equation here.
I got into transportation planning via environmental concerns about water quality and climate change. To that point, here’s a map of New Orleans around the French Quarter with 20 feet of sea level rise. This is a possible scenario in less that 100 years. The French Quarter, the oldest part of New Orleans, was platted on the highest ground. Much of New Orleans is much lower, however, and will be flooded in the near future.
* Actually not, but a top 10 determined by that radio station for the first week of August, including:
What’s Love Got to Do with It?
Jump (for my Love)