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Ferry cuts and confusion killing Algiers business

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Some Algiers business owners worry about the future of their livelihood. They say cutbacks in ferry service have cut their business by as much as 75 percent, and they are looking for help.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu says it wasn't supposed to happen like this. He says the state has pulled the plug on ferry funding, leaving it up to the city and the RTA to figure out how to keep the boats running.

The streets of Algiers are quiet this summer, and so are many of the shops.

"I probably had 20 visitors a day, back in May and June. Now I have just one or two people," said Jennifer Blanchard with the Nola Potter fine arts shop.

Down Pelican Street, the House of the Rising Sun bed and breakfast would normally be filled with guests this weekend.  But with ferry service cutback to daytime hours, guest rooms go empty.

"Last week we're down 75 percent," said Rising Sun owner Kevin Herridge.

The ferry service has been cutback from 18 hours to 12, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during weekdays.  Confusion over the changes may be killing area commerce.

"People don't understand the ferry is running. They hear the news and don't think it's running at all," said Blanchard.

Only one customer comes in while we're interviewing Blanchard, and that one came via the ferry.  "The ferry ride was nice.  We spent the trip taking pictures." said Guillermo Diaz from Monterrey, Mexico.

People who work in the service industry and depend on the ferry are especially hard-hit.  "I've noticed renters are moving out because they can't get in and out service workers," said Herridge.

Some Algiers residents tell us they feel betrayed by these cuts. They fear that they're somehow tied to the cancellation of tolls on the Crescent City Connection - they were told that wouldn't happen.

"I voted to keep the tolls, thinking the ferry would run," said Algiers resident Carol Bloodworth.

"I would encourage legislators who were getting rid of the tolls to step up to the plate and honor the commitment they made, that the people of new Orleans would have adequate funding," said Mayor Landrieu.

The RTA is now considering a plan to charge a $2 fee for pedestrians, and $2 for each passenger in a car.

For now, the future of the ferry is still very much up in the air. And that's especially true for Algiers business owners, used to foot traffic that for now seems rare.

"I'm not sure how long I can hang on," said Blanchard.

Veolia, the agency that runs the RTA, has scheduled a hearing at City Hall on August 5 at 5 p.m. to discuss their latest proposal to bail out the ferries. For now, they continue to run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with no charge to pedestrians.

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