Council approves fares for Orleans ferries

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - There soon will be no more free rides on the ferries that carry commuters and tourists across the Mississippi River at New Orleans.

New Orleans' City Council voted Thursday to impose a $2 one-way fare for the vessels. Council members expressed worries about the effect on workers who use the ferries to get to their jobs, but said they had no choice after a state source of funding ended.

Thursday's vote also sets prices for various multi-day passes - some for ferries alone, others for ferries, streetcars and buses - that could result in a lower day-to-day cost for regular riders.

Tolls on the nearby Crescent City Connection bridge once partially subsidized the ferry service.

Those tolls are no longer collected.

"This is not a choice of fares or no fares," council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer said. "This is a choice of ferries or no ferries."

And council members said the ferries are needed, in part because they are a tourism attraction, but more importantly because many who make minimum wage in the city's crucial hospitality businesses depend on them for transportation to and from work. One of the ferry routes carries pedestrians, bicyclists and cars from the Algiers neighborhood across the river to the foot of Canal Street, near the hotels, restaurants and shops of the French Quarter and the Central Business District.

"This is about jobs," council member Jackie Clarkson said.

Thursday's vote also sets prices for various multi-day passes - some for ferries alone, others for ferries, streetcars and buses.

The vote for the fare system was 7-0.

Council members did express worries about the effect on low-income workers in the city's hospitality industry. New Orleans Regional Transit Authority manager Justin Augustine said the authority will encourage employers to help pay their low-income workers' fares, perhaps taking advantage of federal tax incentive programs.

Costs of operating the Algiers-Canal ferry and another ferry from Algiers to neighboring Chalmette have been estimated at about $8.8 million. State and federal subsidies are expected to provide $6 million but officials have said fares are needed to make up the difference.

Thursday's vote followed weeks of deliberations involving city officials, the RTA and Veolia Transportation, a private company that manages daily operations of the RTA.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)