End of ferry service could mean local jobs in jeopardy

Published: May. 19, 2013 at 2:32 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:56 PM CDT
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Algiers Ferry
Algiers Ferry

New Orleans, La - 1500 jobs could be in jeopardy if the Algiers-Canal Street ferry goes out of service because of lack of funding. That's according to a local non-profit who recently surveyed riders. But there could be help on the way for the Algiers, Gretna and Chalmette ferries, from state lawmakers.

Armand Farve uses the Algiers ferry to get to his job at Pat O'Briens in the French Quarter. "I take it at least three times a week," said Farve.

By June 30th, state funding for the ferry is expected to run out, which is a major concern to Farve and other riders. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I guess I have to start planning now, for July," Farve said.

According to the non-profit, Ride New Orleans, a number of jobs would be in jeopardy if the ferries stop running. The organization spoke to riders in March. Executive Director Rachel Heiligman explains, "22 percent said my trip would be impossible, I would not be able to access my job. Another 41 percent said it would be very difficult, what is a five minute trip across the river on the ferry would become connecting to multiple buses and connecting to streetcars and it becomes very difficult for them to get to their job."

State lawmakers are doing their part to keep the ferries in service. This week, the House Transportation Committee heard a bill that calls for continued service of the Chalmette Lower Coast ferry. Rachel Heiligman believes the DOTD is positioning the Regional Transit Authority to take control of both the Chalmette and Algiers-Canal Street ferries. Heiligman explains why the bill is needed in the first place saying, "Historically the three ferries, so it's the Algiers ferry, the Gretna ferry and the Chalmette ferry were all funded by the Crescent City Connection tolls. In 2012, when the state legislature made the decision to put the continuance of the tolls out to a public vote, they decided to discontinue the tolls from ever funding the ferries again."

Some ferry riders remain optimistic that funding will be found for the Algiers and Gretna ferries before that June 30th deadline. But there are others who seriously worry about the impact on their lives, if their main mode of transportation ends. DeOnte Mitchell questions, "So now how would I get across the river, ride my bicycle across the interstate?". Ferry rider Elijah Whitten added, "I would hate to see an end to such a valuable service to me, my family and all my other friends."

The bill which state lawmakers are considering also calls for the ferries to start charging riders. Right now, only people transporting their cars aboard the ferries have to pay a small fee.