N.O. holds steady on 7 open-top tour buses

The number of open-top, double-decker tour buses that operate in the city will remain at seven as officials examine what, if any, effects the vehicles have had on quality of life issues and infrastructure since its recent introduction.

That was the message New Orleans Taxicab Bureau Director Malachi Hull delivered Thursday to the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

The buses, a common sight in cities such as New York, London and Paris, began operating here in September when City Sightseeing New Orleans started service. Since then New Orleans BusVision has joined the mix.

In addition to basic transportation, the two companies offer bus tours that include guided narration and the opportunity to hop off and on the bus at any of a number of stops to further explore the city.

Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, who serves as the Transportation Committee chairwoman, said she likes the idea of the buses but wants to make sure they do not have negative effects on residents and neighborhoods, particularly those that have not had large buses going through them on a regular basis.

The routes the buses travel take them around the French Quarter, Central Business District, Garden District and Warehouse District using main roads.

But Carol Allen, president of Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents and Associates, who is working with the French Quarter Management District, pointed out that if the buses are chartered for special events, they are not bound to those routes, causing some concerns about the large vehicles traveling through residential areas.

Among other concerns, Allen also said some buses have been spotted using amplification systems, rather than headphones, something that is prohibited.

No one from either tour bus company spoke during Thursday’s meeting.

Hull said that the Taxicab Bureau and Department of Public Works will work together to study the matter before any new permits are issued for the double-decker buses, taking residents’ concerns into consideration.

“I think it’s wise we slow down a bit and have these seven (for now),” Palmer said.