Ferry Service Cutbacks Hurt New Orleans Commuters, Economy

Funding cutbacks have reduced both the number of ferries that cross the Mississippi River and the schedules of those that remain, leaving commuters with few options.
by | August 15, 2013

New Orleans, which has had more than its share of problems, now faces another: A ferry that serves as a lifeline for thousands of city residents has had its schedule significantly reduced as the state cuts back on funding.

The ferry in question connects Algiers, a predominantly low-income, African-American community on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, to Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. Every day, more than 1,500 residents commute using the ferry to hotel, retail, banking, hospital and government jobs. More than one million pedestrians and 175,000 vehicles use the ferry annually.

Until July, it operated 18 hours a day. Now, the ferry runs less than 12 hours a day and even fewer hours on the weekend. It may not seem like a big deal, but for many passengers the alternative is a 7-mile detour by bus, since most residents in Algiers don't own a car. It is a slow, inconvenient trek, which is another reason nearly half of all Algiers commuters use the ferry to get to work.

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The cutbacks are part of a broader reduction in overall ferry services in New Orleans and throughout the state. At one time, Louisiana had 10 ferry crossings on the Mississippi River. Today, it operates just 5, with 3 inside the New Orleans metro area. The cuts have curtailed hours at a nearby car ferry serving lower Algiers and Chalmette, which is located east of downtown New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish; operations of a third ferry have stopped completely.

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