The Reds vs. The Greens

Strange. Katrina’s aftermath knocked out the trolley track system along the St. Charles line, but its green streetcars, which were housed at the Willow Street car barn, were untouched.

However on the Canal Street line, the track system survived but the red streetcars, which were housed at the Canal Street car barn, were flooded.

RTA was left with two halves of a streetcar system, resulting in the green St. Charles cars being sent to run on the Canal line for a couple of years, while the red streetcars and the St. Charles lines were being repaired.

Now the halves are joined together. The red streetcars are back traversing Canal Street and the riverfront, and the greens are back wobbling along St. Charles Avenue.

Once again we can ponder the differences between the two: Historic Significance
Green Streetcars: Date back to the 1920s. The Perley-Thomas company of Highpoint, N.C. manufactured them. Cars are numbered in the 900s in chronological order of their age with No. 900 being the oldest. After restoration in the ’80s, all cars are similar on the inside.
An 800 series Perley-Thomas would have been what Tennessee Williams saw when he was inspired to name his play Streetcar Named Desire.
Red Streetcars: Began service in 2004. They were severely damaged by Katrina in ’05. They have gradually been returning to service.
Advantage: Green

Sounds
Green Streetcars: These trolleys still make a wobbling noise and they go down the street with an occasional clang mixed in.
Red Streetcars: Operate quietly.
Advantage: Green. Some streetcar planners thought riders would appreciate the quietness of the red streetcars. They have found that the clatter of the greens is part of the charm that the public appreciates.

Access
Green Streetcars: Their doors open to the right of the driver, which is on the street side.
Red Streetcars: Their doors open on the left side, which is toward the middle of the neutral ground.
Advantage: Red. It is much safer to board away from traffic.

Appearance
Green Streetcars: They look like what they are, classic early American trolleys.
Red Streetcars: The look OK but lose points for that phony looking window casing on the top, which is really just a covering for the mechanical system.
Advantage: Green. This is the real thing.

Disability Accessibility
Green Streetcars: They were built before the nation’s disability acts and hence have no provisions for the disabled.
Red Streetcars: Required in order to get federal funding, these streetcars have built-in lifts for bringing in wheel chair bound riders.
Advantage: Red. However, the disabled may be better off using RTA’s Handicab program that provides transportation without riders having to get to a streetcar stop. Also, the process of bringing disabled riders into the streetcars is very slow, though RTA is training its drivers to reduce the time.

Temperature control

Green Streetcars: Windows are the temperature control system. You raise them when it’s hot and lower them when it’s cold.
Red Streetcars: They have a built in heating and cooling system.
Advantage: Tie. When the temperatures are at extremes the reds are the best, but on most days nature’s air works remarkably well.

Ride smoothness
Green Streetcars: There is a lot of wobble along the way.
Red Streetcars: Newer tracks are welded in place and contribute to an overall smoother ride.
Advantage: Red. Unless you like to wobble.

Route Scenery
Green Streetcars: Because they run on the St. Charles route there are more mansions, green space and monuments to pass, plus the route includes a block of Canal Street and part of the Central Business District.
Red Streetcars: Mostly up and down Canal Street, though some turn at N. Carrollton Avenue or along the riverfront.
Advantage: Green. Those who know best, the streetcar drivers, have told me that route is more interesting.

Overall Funkiness
Green Streetcars. The trolleys are quaint, historic and noisy (though in a delightful way). They are the last known mode of public transportation in which windows can be opened and closed. Breeze is good.
Red Streetcars. Modern, efficient, accessible.
Advantage: Greens. Don’t get me wrong, I like the reds too, but greens are more fun.

WINNER: Us – we have streetcars; most cities don’t.

Categories: Streetcar