It’s a reprieve for the Canal Street ferry service to and from Algiers Point — but hardly a restoration to full vitality. And the service to Gretna will soon be a thing of the past.
Starting July 1, the state will continue the Algiers service approximately 76 hours a week, an improvement on the drastic cutbacks that had been threatened, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced Wednesday.
But the Algiers ferry will be passenger-only, a spokeswoman told The Lens on Thursday. The reason: The smaller ferry consumes less fuel.
The plan announced Wednesday is a marked improvement on the 20 hours a week that had been recommended but falls far short of the current schedule of approximately 130 hours. Starting July 1, the Algiers ferry will run Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and about eight hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
The pedestrian-only ferry to Gretna is slated to shut down June 30.
“No funds were dedicated to the Gretna ferry service during the legislative session and it does not fit into the state’s ferry service model because alternative routes are available,” the release from the DOTD reads.
The passenger-only ferry on the Gretna route, Motor Vessel Frank X. Armiger, will move to the Algiers route. “In order to reduce operating costs, the pedestrian only ferry will be the primary vessel used,” said DOTD spokeswoman Bambi Hall in an email. “The larger ferry will ONLY be used if the M/V Armiger is out of service for repairs or inspection.”
The Algiers service will be financed with approximately $1.5 million a year, gathered from two bills that were signed into law last week.
Act 273, which invited the Regional Transit Authority to take over the Orleans ferries, allocated $830,000 for bare-bones service to be augmented with fares. The RTA has yet to reach agreement on a takeover, but the money — from truck and trailer registrations in Orleans Parish — is still available to something called the New Orleans Ferry Fund.
According to the DOTD release, RTA officials said they would study their options and possibly produce a transition plan in the fall.
The DOTD will kick in another $700,000, Wednesday’s announcement said, citing Act 274, which Gov. Bobby Jindal signed last week.
The law establishes a $4 million Crescent City Transition Fund to be used by the DOTD for capitalizing ferry service.
The money will be collected from an amnesty program that forgives people who failed to pay Crescent City Connection bridge tolls prior to Jan.1, when the toll was abolished. Toll delinquents who come forward will be forgiven late charges and other administrative fees.
The Chalmette ferry will continue to run normally, using state transportation funds that are available because it connects two state highways.
Future service changes seem likely. To that end, the DOTD said it will be working with the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission to study area needs.
Those agencies “will look for areas with low and high ridership and adjust hours of operation based on when customers utilize the transit system,” Hall said. “These adjustments will also be based on available funds.”