Ferry riders concerned with limited service and possible rate hikes

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 5, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 5 at 10:21 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- Next week the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority Board will consider a proposal to raise passenger fares for the ferries.

Community members were packed inside City Council Chambers on Monday night to weigh-in.

"People come from thousands of miles to ride our ferries and cross the great Mississippi," said Westwego Councilman Glenn Green.

From near and far, passengers and cars hop on board the Algiers Point and Chalmette ferries. On Monday night supporters dressed in bright blue "Save the Ferries" t-shirts showed up to be heard.

"I find it more then a little ironic that those who can afford a car can now cross the bridge for free, but those who depend on the boat are going to look at $4 a day," said Algiers Point resident Michelle Moltz.

The RTA Board is considering raising fares on the Algiers Ferry from $1 per vehicle to $2, additional passengers would pay $2 per crossing and pedestrians would also pay $2. For the Chalmette Ferry, drivers would be charged $2 per crossing and additional passengers $1. Pedestrian would pay $1 per journey.

RTA CEO Justin Augustine told the crowd the rate hikes would help pay for new ferries and keep them running.

"The cost to run the service moving forward today is estimated at $8.8 million dollars and that would be $4.8 million dollars to operate the Chalmette operations and $3.8 million dollars to operate the New Orleans operations," said Augustin.

RTA says it could get $6 million in state subsidies and other funding to operate the ferries. However, it would still need to come up with $2.8 million and that's where riders like Moltz come in. The Algiers Point resident is willing to pay more but not $2 dollars.

"I would like it to really become part of the RTA system. I would like to see it at $1.25 each way, the same as the bus," said Moltz.

Many speakers tonight voiced concerns about the recent reduction in ferry hours of operation. Critics say the reduction in hours continues to hurt residents and local businesses.

"It's really thrown a monkey wrench into our life structure in Algiers, not having ferries run until 12 o'clock," said resident Ken Barge.

"If they don't have the ferries to get to work, they don't get to work. They're single moms, they're young people, they're college students. They need the ferry to be working on a regular basis," said one local business owner.

A special RTA Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 13 at 10 a.m. at 2817 Canal Street.

The board will decide whether or not to move forward with the proposed ferry fare structure. If approved, it will head to the New Orleans City Council for a final vote.

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