These birds don’t need to fly South — help keep New Orleans free of “duck boat” tours!

The New Orleans Steamboat Co. and Grayline Tours have filed an application requesting a license to operate “duck boat tours.”

These excursions will travel along Decatur Street through the French Quarter to the Grayline location at the Toulouse Street Wharf, then to Canal Street and out to Lake Pontchartrain. At this time, I’m guessing that these WWII amphibious landing craft vehicles will return to that location for tour participants to disembark, but the precise route of travel throughout the city isn’t something I’ve been able to confirm (yet).  It has been reported that tours will likely also depart from and return to the WWII Museum due to its inherent tie-in with the type of vehicle being used.

The congestion and the sheer variety of vehicles traveling on Decatur Street is already alarming. In addition to standard buses directed to use Decatur as an approved bus route, there are the mule-drawn buggies, the questionably safe candy-colored three-wheeled toy cars, shorter buses and faux trolleys that are permitted to travel throughout the Quarter, pedicabs and, most recently, double-decker hop-on/hop-off tour buses — all in addition to personal vehicles, delivery trucks, taxis, bicycles, etc.

Do we really need to add over-sized amphibious landing craft into the mix of traffic traveling throughout our notoriously pothole-riddled city? I suspect that our elected officials will come to realize that it’s simply too much only after the appropriate licenses have been issued (and the wheels and propellers have started spinning).

I view these duck boat tours as an encroaching invasive species — yet another homogenized cookie-cutter tourist experience not particularly different from all of the other duck boat tours offered in several other cities in the United States. And I am absolutely confident that New Orleans will continue to draw a staggering number of visitors (9.01 million during 2012!) without the addition of this novelty tour.

These open-air vehicles will feature amplified music and the tour guides will use theatrical-quality sound systems to broadcast their repetitive spiels. Tour participants are also encouraged to sing along with recorded music at particular locations along the route, asked to use souvenir plastic “quackers” frequently, and urged to be boisterous to draw attention to the spectacle — noisy displays of “participatory fun” are a part of the overall promotional marketing strategy for these tours.

An example of the duck boat tour experience can be viewed via this video:

 

The duck boat tours have recently ruffled feathers in Seattle, as well:

The company bills the rides as a “party that floats,” complete with a “crazy captain” who narrates the passing scenery through a loudspeaker and passengers outfitted with duck squawkers.

At the height of summer, the Duck boats enter and leave Lake Union 150 times a day, or about once every four minutes in a 10-hour day, according to company estimates and the neighbors’ calculations. Plans call for a ramp just south of a small street-end park and 100 feet from the nearest houseboats.

“It’s like putting a truck route through a quiet, residential neighborhood,” said Dave Galvin, who has lived on a nearby houseboat for 26 years.

Further, a duck boat tour resulted in the deaths of two tourists in Philadelphia, PA: Duck Boat Survivor Describes Chaos of 2010 Barge Crash on Delaware River. A “runaway duck” boat caused a seven-car pile-up in Boston; another ran over a motorcyclist stopped at a red light, then dragged its victim through a prominent downtown Seattle intersection. The Huffington Post conveniently provides additional accident reporting: Duck Boats Have a History of Accidents: A Brief Guide. As one writer noted (regarding the Boston accident), “Weird. It’s almost as if amphibious vehicles from WWII are unreliable or something.” This might very well be true, given that were designed for storming beaches in combat zones instead of providing recreational tours in densely-populated urban environments.

I wonder, how many neighborhoods in New Orleans will be directly affected by these tours? These notably ugly and loud vehicles could end up traveling through any neighborhood deemed “interesting” for whatever purpose serves the tour companies and their guides, just like any other bus tour. Since the most common model of this vehicle exceeds 31′ in length, they won’t be allowed into the interior of the French Quarter… but I don’t believe that any similar prohibition protects any other neighborhood in New Orleans.

(Keep in mind, too, that the Vieux Carré isn’t entirely immune to a future duck boat tour invasion — reportedly there are variations of these vehicles currently in use in other cities that are shorter than 31′ in length, suggesting the possibility they could be seen traveling within the Quarter eventually.)

The way I understand it at this moment, when someone applies for a For Hire Vehicle Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience (CPNC) license for the purpose of operating a tour, it’s pretty much handled directly by the city’s Taxi for Hire Vehicle Bureau (under the purview of its Director, Malachi Hull). In general, a tour is a tour is a tour — even if an application involves a type of vehicle not yet in use in the city of New Orleans. I am unaware of any particular requirement for new types of vehicles or tours to go before the City Council’s Transportation Committee for public review and comment.

Yesterday I sent the following email inquiry (and will add any reply received to this post):

Date: Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 5:05 PM
Subject: Seeking Transportation Committee agenda information
re: “Ride the Ducks”
To: “Kristin G. Palmer” <kgpalmer@nola.gov>, “Vincent J. Rossmeier” <vjrossmeier@nola.gov>

Hello, Councilmember Palmer:

I understand that the New Orleans Steamboat Co. & Grayline Tours have requested a CPNC license to operate duck boat tours that will travel along Decatur Street through the French Quarter to the Grayline tour bays, then to Canal Street and out to Lake Pontchartrain, etc.

May I please ask when this might appear on the New Orleans City Council’s Transportation Committee agenda for public consideration and comment? According to the “Tentative Committee Meeting Schedule” posted online, it appears that the next meeting of this committee is scheduled for 10:00 AM on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

Thank you for your time and assistance.

Kalen Wright

I don’t believe that there’s much available in terms of legal prohibitions for our City Council to trot out to deny the issuance of a CPNC license for these tours. These vehicles are being characterized as “tour buses.” We let tour buses travel the perimeter of the French Quarter routinely (as part of the ages-old compromise to keep them out of the the Vieux Carré’s interior) and to otherwise roam the city freely. However, these ugly-as-hell vehicles and the noisy behavior of tour participants will constitute a regularly-scheduled nuisance for all, most particularly those who happen to live near a featured attraction along the tour’s route.

We need for a popular uprising objecting to the proposed duck boat tour invasion of New Orleans, if for no other reason than to give our City Council a groundswell of constituent concern to use as a shield.

Please write to our city Council members, Mayor Landrieu, and New Orleans Taxicab and For Hire Bureau Director Malachi Hull immediately regarding this issue — because there’s not an overt requirement calling for public review or comment regarding this matter, a license could unfortunately be issued at any time.

For convenience here’s a handy clip-and-paste address list:

Malachi Hull <mhull@nola.gov>, Kristin G. Palmer <kgpalmer@nola.gov>, Susan Guidry <sgguidry@nola.gov>, James Gray II <jagray@nola.gov>, Stacy Head <shead@nola.gov>, Jackie Brechtel Clarkson <jbclarkson@nola.gov>, LaToya Cantrell <lcantrell@nola.gov>, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell <chmorrell@nola.gov>, Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu <mjlandrieu@nola.gov>

Opposition to outlandish vehicles isn’t without precedent in New Orleans. Please consider the words of Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (with a hat tip to Jeffrey at Library Chronicles):

I wish that those Scenicruisers would be discontinued; it would seem to me that their height violates some interstate highway statue regarding clearance in tunnels and so forth. Perhaps one of you, dear readers, with a legal turn of mind can dredge the appropriate clause from your memory. Those things really must be removed. Simply knowing that they are hurtling somewhere on this dark night makes me most apprehensive.

Or, as Thom Kahler quipped when I started posting my concerns regarding this subject elsewhere on the Internet, “Oh, no, no! Let’s hold out for ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!'”

Duck boat tours in New Orleans? Please, let’s all sound off with a loud and heartfelt “HELL, NO!” chorus right now! Send a reminder to our elected officials once again that we are a community — not a commodity.

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OWS: Hot Chicks Transcending the Label

Whether or not you agree with the politics of Occupy Wall Street you have to acknowledge it as a cultural phenomenom.  The park has become a microcosm of activism spawning similar scenes in cities all over the world and I’m really quite mesmerized by the diversity and the logistics of daily living in the midst of protest.

The video above, Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street. was shot by Steven Greenstreet who admits, “Our original ideas were admittedly sophomoric: Pics of hot chicks being all protesty, videos of hot chicks beating drums in slow-mo, etc.” but he says it evolved into “something more”. I came across the video on Lost in E Minor where the writer says, “I was ready to hate on this video accompaniment to the Tumblr Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street for being sexist, and a lot of people have, but I actually find it a bit inspiring. I think it’s done tastefully, and the beauty of these women lies more in their words, actions, and sense of hope than in their physical attributes.”

I agree. As I watched the video I saw young women working for a cause they believed in and trying in their own small way to make a better world. The initial impetus for the  making of the video may be flawed in some people’s opinions but the result is inspiring. The women themselves elevated the video to a higher purpose. Good for them.

New Orleans = A Canvas For Art Post-Katrina

I photographed Rex & friend at a paint party in the St. Roch Community in March of '09

Rex Dingler, creator of NOLA Rising, is interviewed by Where Y’at Magazine on the rise of the activist Nola street art movement that arose post Katrina in our city.

Having access to the city so soon after the devastation caused a sense of panic in Dingler’s mind. A simple phone call from a friend became the starting point for what would result in a post-Katrina street art movement—a movement that would later be named NoLa Rising.

I have my own NOLA Rising art story. I lost my job after the storm when Tenet Health Systems didn’t come back and participate in the rebuilding of our city. In early 2006 I was hired by a local hospital uptown and drove to work everyday down the length of Tchoupitoulas St. On the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon Ave was a boarded up (as were most) building with a NOLA Rising sign on the door. It was a beautifully multi-colored sign that gave me hope each day as I passed through the streets of a still broken city lined with flooded-out cars and garbage. The day the sign was gone was a sad one for me – it had given me hope each day that one day our city would be back.

Dingler painted on any bit of scrap wood he could find. Thousands of signs were popping up all over the city. Most were simple road markers, but others were messages of hope.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Thanks, Rex, for all you’ve done and continue to do for the people of New Orleans. You’re a pretty cool guy.

“To me, the most valuable thing in becoming socially visible through the artwork I put up is standing up as a voice of expression in our city when people are trying to take the artist voice away,” he later noted. “That’s when I learned that not only my voice is important, but everyone’s voice is important, no matter what the persecution is going to be.” ~~Rex Dingler

June 10-12: States Participate in “Dine Out For The Gulf”


Photo by Maitri – mmmmmm……gumbo!

From Defend New Orleans:

America’s premier chefs and restaurants unite to create Dine Out for the Gulf Coast, benefiting the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund.
From June 10-12, 2010, participating restaurants throughout the United States will set aside a portion of profits to help those directly affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to support the long-term restoration of the treasured coast.

Participating restaurants will customize their own Dine Out for the Gulf Coast benefit program. Some restaurants will contribute a percentage of total sales for the day and others will donate the sales from specific menu items, while others will offer specialty cocktails with a dollar-value from sales donated to the fund.
Many restaurants will highlight Gulf seafood offerings as a way to support the Gulf Coast fishing industry (commercial and charter fisherman), just declared a national fisheries disaster by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
The short-term goal of The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund, administered by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, is to make emergency grants to nonprofit organizations helping the victims of the oil spill. The long-term goal of the fund is to address the long-term economic, environmental, cultural effects of the disaster, and strengthen coastal communities against future environmental catastrophes by investing in solutions. No administrative fees will be charged to the fund: all funds will be re-granted to the communities in need.

Click here for a list of participating restaurants. States participating (so far) include California, Washington D.C., Louisiana, Virginia, New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnestoa, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida.
We thank you!

http://dineoutforthegulfcoast.org/