Convention Report

Spring 2004

New Orleans, LA

Forty members and guests attended the Spring 2004 convention of the Motor Bus Society, which was held in New Orleans, Louisiana during the weekend of April 17 and 18.  Headquarters hotel was the Radisson - New Orleans on Canal Street in downtown,  just outside the French Quarter.  Convention Chairman was Dino Mandros, who was assisted by New Orleans area MBS member David Grant.  During the week prior to the convention, Dino injured his foot and his duties as tour director were assumed by Gerald Squier with the help of David Grant.  


Saturday Tour: The first stop was five minutes away from the hotel at the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal.  This multi-modal facility is the New Orleans terminal of Amtrak rail and Greyhound bus intercity passengers.  There was not much activity at the station during the short stop, but several Greyhounds and a Coach USA bus were seen. Then it was across the Mississippi River to the so-called Westbank area (actually the south side of the River, which generally runs east-west through the New Orleans area) and the Wilty Transit Terminal (transit center) in the City of Gretna.  Most of the south side of the River is in Jefferson Parish (county) and is served by Jefferson Transit (Jefferson Parish-Transit Division), known locally at JeT.  But the eastern end includes a section of Orleans Parish and the City of New Orleans, known as Algiers.  This area is served by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) commonly known as RTA.  The Wilty Terminal is served by both JeT and RTA buses, and examples from both agencies arrived during the visit.  The tour then continued on to the Westside Transit garage, also in Gretna.  Westside Transit (now owned by ATC) is the historic private operator of service on the south side, and they had owned the property on which the garage now sits.  The location is now owned by Jefferson Parish, and the facilities there were completely rebuilt several years ago by them.  It is now the Parish's Westbank transit maintenance facility, and Westside as the Westbank contract operator is allowed to use it.  Jefferson Parish funds and directs JeT operations.  Its bus fleet consists entirely of Gillig 0Phantom busesB53 40 footers and five 30 footers,  Twenty-nine of the 40- and two of the 30-foot Gilligs are used on the 12 route Westbank operation.   Leaving the Westside garage, the tour continued to the Walkertown Transit Terminal in the town of Marrero, several miles to the west.  The Walkertown Terminal is located under the Westbank (US 90) Expressway.    From Walkertown, the tour continued west on US 90 and then took the Huey P. Long Bridge across the Mississippi to the north side, known locally as the Eastbank.  This area, which is west of the Orleans Parish/City of New Orleans boundary, is also in Jefferson Parish, and is also operated by JeT as its Eastbank division.  The next stop was at the garage of Louisiana Transit Co., the historic private operator of service on that portion of the north side that is west of the City of New Orleans and Orleans Parish (which are a single political unit).  The JeT Eastbank garage is also owned by the Parish, and was built on previously owned property in Metairie.  This facility is JeT's Eastbank operating and maintenance facility and is used by LTCo as contract operator.  This facility replaces the LTCo-owned garage in Harahan; the Company  is still owned by Kent Mitchell, whose family has owned it for many years.  Kent was on hand to host the MBS visit to the new garage.  LTCo uses the balance of the Parish=s 30 and 40-foot Gilligs on its six routes.  Leaving LTCo, the tour took Interstate 10 west to Baton Rouge and Louisiana=s capital city and the garage of Capital Transportation Corp., the local transit operator in that city.  The garage and transit center are located on Florida Blvd. east of downtown.  Known as CTC, the operation is owned by the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, and it operates a system of 16 fixed-routes with a fleet of 57  buses, including 51 Gillig Phantoms (49 35- and two 30-footers), four 35-foot Low Floor Gilligs and two 30-foot Bluebird transits.  Also in the fleet are 20 Ford-Goshen cutaway vans primarily used for ADA paratransit service (although some are also used in fixed-route service) and five Optima trolley replicas.  Most of the routes go through the adjacent transit center, which is a center island affair with enclosed air-conditioned waiting room.  After lunch at the Cortana Mall, the tour stopped at the Baton Rouge Greyhound station, and this was followed by a sight-seeing tour of downtown Baton Rouge, including the capitol and historic areas.  Then it was back on I-10 to New Orleans, and a final stop at Hotard Tours, the local Gray Line operator.  Hotard operates a fleet of mostly MCI highway buses in charter and tour/sightseeing service.  After the Hotard stop, the tour returned to the headquarters hotel.


Spring 2004 Meeting: The semi-annual business meeting was chaired by MBS President, Charlie Sullivan.  Attendees were advised of the change in editorship of the Society's magazines due to the ill-health of MCA Editor, Mac Sebree. Charlie reported that Al Meier agreed to re-assume editorship of MCA, and it is planned to merge MCT into a more frequent MCA.  Charlie also advised that he expects ballots for the upcoming election of MBS officers to be sent out with the next magazine mailing.  Vice President-Conventions Gerald Squier reported that he plans to conduct a mail survey to determine the members' preference on locations for meetings for the 2006-2010 period.  The survey will be included with an MCA mailing and is to be sent out later in 2004.  Entertainment for the evening was slides of the New Orleans area by Gerald Squier and by Harry Peat of California and other areas.  The meeting was adjourned by 9:00 PM to allow participants the opportunity to attend the opening of the new Canal Street rail service.


Canal Streetcar Opening: The opening of new light rail service on Canal Street in New Orleans happened to occur during the convention.   The event reestablished streetcar service that had been removed in 1964B40 years earlier.  All-night hourly service is and was operated on Canal Street from the Cemeteries to the River, and the first daytime runs are scheduled to pull-out of the Canal facility at around 3:30 AM.  RTA had planned to start the new rail service on Sunday morning, April 18th, so the Saturday night Canal Owl was the last bus to operate on the 42-Canal-Cemeteries route; and it pulled in to the Canal garage around 4:30 AMBafter streetcars had already started to run.  A few of the more hearty convention participants attended the event, which was concluded by 5:00 AM, three hours before the start of the regular Sunday tour at 8:00 AM.


Sunday Tour: The Sunday tour covered the three RTA facilities.  The first stop was at the Carrollton carbarn and shops.  The fleet of about 35 historic Saint Charles Line streetcars are stored and maintained at this location.  The shops do all heavy rail maintenance, and in fact the 24 new light rail vehicles for the Canal Line were constructed there.  RTA Director of Maintenance Eddy Moore met the group at Carrollton and showed them through the facility and answered their numerous questions as well.  Mr. Moore also conducted the tours at the other two facilities.  Leaving Carrollton, the tour stopped at the Carrollton and Claiborne terminal.  This location is at the end of the Saint Charles streetcar line, but the RTA Tulane, Carrollton and South Claiborne, and JeT Kenner Local buses also end there and RTA's Carrollton Express passes there.  Next stop was at the Canal facility.  This new operating base replaces the old Canal Station carbarn and bus garage and storage lots that had occupied four city blocks.  The new facility also occupies the same four-square-block area, although the interior streets no longer exist as such, the perimeter having been fenced-in and the interior redeveloped.  The new facility includes  operating and state-of-the-art routine maintenance locations for both the bus and light rail vehicles.  The RTA bus fleet includes 286 Orion V (five) buses of which 30 are 30 footers (05.505's) and the remainder are 40 footers (05.501's); there are also 71 New Flyer D-40's and six Chance trolley replicas for the French Quarter shuttle, for a total of 364 fixed route buses.  Leaving the Canal facility, the tour proceeded to the Cemeteries terminal of the Canal streetcar line.  This is also the terminal for several RTA and JeT Eastbank bus routes.  Then the group went on to lunch at the Lakeside Mall, and then to the RTA ENO (East New Orleans) bus garage.  This relatively new facility houses a second bus operations location as well as the primary overhaul shops for the bus system.  All ADA paratransit operations emanate at this location.  After the tour of ENO, the group returned to the hotel for an early 3:00 PM end time.  This allowed attendees to take independent rides on the new Canal Street streetcar service, take selected bus rides or early departures to the airport.




Buses for the convention were supplied by Kohoutek Transportation, Inc. on Saturday and by RTA on Sunday.  The Conventions staff wish to thank the following people for their efforts in helping to make the New Orleans convention so enjoyable:


New Orleans Regional Transit Authority:  Bill Deville, General Manager, Gerald  Robichaux, Deputy General Manager/Operations,  Eddy Moore, Director of Maintenance

Westside Transit Lines: Anthony C. Beckford, General Manager

Louisiana Transit Co.: Kent Mitchell, owner and Michael J. Seither, General Manager

Capital Transportation Corp.:  Steve Rushing, Maintenance Superintendent