In The News › New Orleans City Council passes new fares for Algiers ferries

New Orleans City Council passes new fares for Algiers ferries

By Richard Rainey | The Times-Picayune

August 22, 2013

The days of free ferry service from the foot of Canal Street are numbered.

The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously Thursday to increase the fares for Mississippi River crossings between Algiers and either downtown New Orleans or Chalmette. Most passengers will have to shell out $2 each way starting Oct. 1.

Supporters of the new fare structure, estimated to raise $2.8 million a year, hailed the council’s decision as vital to keeping the aging ferries afloat.

“This is not a choice of fares or no fares,” said Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, whose district includes Algiers. “This is a choice of ferries or no ferries. It’s as simple as that.”

The need to begin charging fares for pedestrians and to increase the current fee of $1 for cars heading from Algiers to Canal Street began looming more than a year ago.

Tolls for the Crescent City Connection bridge, which drivers had paid since 1989, were set to end in December 2012, unless voters agreed to keep them going. About 32 cents from every $1 bridge toll went to run the ferries, according to an analysis by the government watchdog group, Bureau of Governmental Research.

But even if the tolls were renewed, state Rep. Karen Gaudet St. Germain, D-Plaquemine, won passage of a bill that, among other things, banned use of toll revenue as a funding source for the ferries. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed it into law in June 2012.

Voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes officially killed the bridge tolls in May.

Meanwhile, Algiers ferry service began a transition that’s still under way. The Legislature set aside $4 million for the ferries when the state Department of Transportation and Development took over the service and the bridge-toll subsidy ended. That diminished budget led the DOTD to slash the ferries’ hours of operations on July 1.

But the DOTD wasn’t to be the ferries’ final steward. State lawmakers had authorized the agency to pass them on to local control. In New Orleans’ case, that meant the Regional Transit Authority. In turn, the RTA will turn over management of the boats to Veolia Transportation Services, the French company that already runs the city’s bus and streetcar lines.

Veolia calculates it costs $4.8 million a year to run the Lower Algiers-Chalmette service and another $4 million to operate the Algiers Point-New Orleans line. State and federal subsidies are expected to provide $6 million a year, but the new fares are needed to make up a remaining $2.8 million annual gap, officials said.

Veolia wrote the new fare structure for the ferries. After hearing many complaints that the hikes would fall hardest on low-wage workers crossing the river daily to their jobs, the company made some slight changes. Justin Augustine, a vice president of Veolia and general manager of the RTA, said Veolia and the RTA also are working with the hospitality industry on a proposal to provide tax credits to businesses that pay for their employees’ public transportation costs.

The RTA approved the fare structure on Aug. 13, setting up the council’s vote Thursday.

City officials hope the new financing will restore the ferries to more than 18 hours of daily service. The plan could also resurrect the Gretna-Canal Street ferry line on certain occasions, such as Gretna Fest.
The charges for the two ferry lines will be as follows:

Algiers Point/Canal Street line:

• $2 each way, $4 round trip, for every walk-on ferry passenger, car driver, car passenger and cyclist. No extra charge for bicycles.
• $1 each way, $2 round trip, for each passenger who is disabled, a senior citizen or a Medicare patient.
• $7 for a daily pass for combined ferry, bus and streetcar services.
• $30 for a five-day pass for combined ferry, bus and streetcar services.
• $105 for a monthly pass for combined ferry, bus and streetcar services.
• $18 for a five-day pass for ferry service only.
• $65 for a monthly pass for ferry service only (reduced from an initial proposal of $75).
• No charge for children 2 years old or younger.
• Special, to-be-determined rates could apply during major events, such as French Quarter Fest or the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Lower Algiers/Chalmette line:

• $2 each way, $4 round trip, for every walk-on ferry passenger and car driver.
• $1 each way, $2 round trip, for every walk-on passenger who is disabled, a senior citizen or a Medicare patient.
• $1 each way for every passenger in a vehicle beyond the driver.
• No charge for car passengers who are disabled, senior citizens or Medicare patients.
• $3 each way for a trailer.

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