NEW ORLEANS -- The ferry system in Greater New Orleans carries an estimated 2.2 million passengers a year.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is now looking for a private company to run the operation beginning next year.
Among the companies already showing interest is Veolia, the global transportation firm already running the buses and streetcars in the Crescent City.
“Ferries is what we do throughout the world,” said Veolia vice president Justin Augustine. “We took a very active interest in the initial letter of interest and we've made that submittal.”
Augustine said his company could provide a seamless experience for local mass transit riders.
“We could enter into some type of cooperative endeavor agreement to ensure that passengers would basically share a cost structure that will be beneficial to both the ferry passengers and the RTA passengers,” Augustine said.
Currently the ferries are highly subsidized by Crescent City Connection tolls and license plate fees. A new law, now awaiting the governor's signature, would cut off the toll money.
But the state is prepared to maintain a $4 million a year subsidy, purchase new vessels and provide funds to help redevelop the ferry landings. The new operator would also be able to charge a market rate fare.
“I think a good operator will be able to do fairly well with this,” said Glen Orgeron, a member of the CCC Task Force. “They'll serve the public well and it will be a much more modern, streamlined operation.”
Augustine said new restaurants and retail at the ferry landings would add a new revenue stream to the overall operation.
“The economic opportunity is tremendous,” Augustine said. “It's a very sizable upside to this.”
“They're going to get the opportunity to capitalize on the ferry landings to commercialize them to the extent they desire,” Orgeron said.