I appreciate being quoted in the NOLA.com/Times-Picayune article about the Algiers Ferry. To give some context to those who may never have used the ferry or might not understand residents’ frustration with the lack of support and management it’s now experiencing, that quote was part of a much longer Letter to the Editor I submitted, which appears below.
I live a few blocks outside of Algiers Point. It used to be that I could walk onto the ferry to go basically anywhere in the city. After work, I could ferry to the CBD for dinner or the Quarter for a drink. I could walk to community meetings, museums, events or volunteer activities on the weekends. I could take the ferry to mass on Sunday.
I can no longer do any of those things without a car. I used to ride the ferry upwards of 20 times a month. Under the current schedule of reduced hours, it’s only a viable option for me two or three times a month. Simply put, the 6am to Midnight hours allowed folks from all walks of New Orleans life to partake in everything the city has to offer. The current reduced schedule (715am to 630pm weekdays, 1045-8pm weekends) only helps commuters that use the ferry to get to and from a Monday to Friday 9-5 job – an exceptionally small subset of the population here.
Something as simple as having dinner at a restaurant downtown is impossible with a ferry that ends at 6:30PM weekdays. A 10:45am start time and embarrassingly early 8pm last call on weekends is equally frustrating. The events that New Orleans is known for are also times when it is virtually impossible to drive or park, and the ferry dictates a curfew for those. It is impossible to predict when ferry hours might be extended for special events or which events are deemed special enough. A prime example: to run in this year’s Crescent City Classic 10K, I had to drive to the starting line (for the first time ever) because the ferry didn’t start running until 2.5 hours after me and 20,000 of my new friends did.
Amidst all the talk of potentially restoring the ferry to normal 6AM – Midnight hours, nothing. Even the daily, weekly and monthly ferry passes city council approved at RTA’s request in August of 2013 have never materialized. Do our current slate of leaders want the legacy of watching the slow death of a ferry that thrived for almost 190 years?
Several years ago, the departure of Mardi Gras World to the east bank was a tough blow to the small businesses and foot traffic of Algiers Point, but the neighborhood held on. The reduced ferry hours continue to threaten the existence and stability of New Orleans’ second oldest neighborhood. When I see things like a sudden surge of graffiti and vandalism in my neighborhood, or virtually an entire block length of buildings newly for sale in recent months, I have to wonder if it’s because people feel trapped on the island that Algiers Point has become. It’s is especially disappointing to those who recognize that it’s a neighborhood rich with well preserved and documented Jazz heritage.
I do not expect a free ferry, nor have I ever asked for one. As someone who gladly pays a fare, I continue to be frustrated that there has been no attempt to restore the ferry to full hours of service. No one seems to be addressing it with any sense of urgency, and the ferry hours and information cannot even be found on the RTA’s website. What message does this send to the huge swath of Orleans Parish that relies on the ferry as a critical means of public transit? Cities far smaller than ours run ferries that are successful, efficient, and profitable (7 am to midnight in Savannah, Georgia…7 days a week!). What can I do to help make this happen?