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Cityscapes: New Orleans Almost Had A Monorail

Tulane Special Collections
Inside the proposed New Orleans monorail, 1959.

New Orleans has various ways of transportation to get around the city including ferries, streetcars and buses.  However, in 1958 New Orleans planned to create a new form of getting around: a monorail. The idea of creating the monorail came from the city's urge to remain modern and keep up with Houston, which had recently passed New Orleans as the largest city in the region. 

At the time, the main advocates for the project were Victor Schiro, president of the New Orleans City Council, and Governor Chet Morrison. Morrison pushed the project in hopes of staying in competition with other major cities in the region and in attempt to make New Orleans "the gateway to the Americas," Campanella says. 

Campanella describes the train as, "a futuristic-looking, bullet train, Euro-inspired monorail." The cost of the monorail was estimated to be $16 million and would all be funded privately. The monorail would have connected downtown and the airport. 

Many felt that the monorail would be underutilized and that it was too far ahead of its time. A year later, in 1959, the idea for the monorail was voted down and put to rest.

Campanella wants the residents of New Orleans to be reminded that, "The city that we have today was not inevitable. Decisions were made, there was contingency, there was uncertainty, and we could have very well gone down a different path."

Every month WWNO News Director Eve Troeh talks to Tulane Professor of Geography Richard Campanella about his column "Cityscapes" in | The Times-Picayune.