The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) has been the operating authority of bus and streetcar service in the city since the 1980s. Since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city in August 2005, service remains reduced when compared to pre-hurricane levels. The hurricane caused flooding at all but two of NORTA’s facilities, resulting in the loss of the fleets stored at those locations. NORTA’s fleet of 1997 Orion Vs provided much of the service in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, and additional buses were brought in from other cities, including units from Philadelphia, Urbana-Champaign, IL, and Alexandria, VA, to restart service. In subsequent years, new buses were purchased and now NORTA has one of the youngest fleets of any transit operator in the United States.
New Orleans’s storied streetcars were also affected by the hurricane. The St. Charles Line was the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world prior to the hurricane. The line’s infrastructure was largely damaged due to the hurricane, and was also due for upgrades. However, the Carrolton Carhouse, where the historic fleet used on the St. Charles Line is maintained, was not damaged, whereas the car barn for the Canal Street Line was flooded and the newer streetcars housed there were damaged. Until the Canal Street streetcars were rebuilt and the upgrades to the St. Charles Line were complete, the St. Charles cars operated on the Canal Street line, and the St. Charles Line was replaced by buses. In December 2006, service was restored to the St. Charles Line. Today, New Orleans operates four street car lines on 22.3 miles of track.