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Free Ferry Service Ending This Weekend

Eileen Fleming

The days of a free ride across the Mississippi River are coming to an end. Starting Sunday, passengers and cars will have to pay $2 to use the ferry system.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu along with transportation and city officials gathered at the Algiers ferry terminal to mark the end of free service. Veolia Transportation — which now runs the RTA, the city's bus and streetcar system — will operate the ferries. The fees were set after voters got rid of tolls on the Crescent City Connection, which subsidized ferry service operated by the state.

Landrieu thanked a coalition that formed to keep the service alive.

Officials say the ferries are important for tourism as well as West Bank residents who work on the East Bank.

One is Toni Thompson, who has been riding the ferry since Hurricane Katrina to get to her job at a downtown hotel. She was glad the RTA will allow ferry passengers to use transfers for the bus and streetcar lines.

“You can relax, you know, and get some nice fresh air, and then you get home and you start your other chores," she said of riding the ferry. "But it’s a nice way to end a day after a hard day at work.” 

Some tourists on board weren’t so sure they would have ridden the ferry if it cost $2 each way.

Joni Brown of Northern California:

“Um, I don’t know. Probably. Yes. It’s sure nice that it’s free.”   

Brendan Doohan and Liz Migliore of Jersey City, New Jersey, were on their third visit to New Orleans.

“We read a magazine and we found out it was free," Brendan said. "And it was historic Algiers and we wanted to go check it out. And I’m not sure if we would have gone if it..."

Migliore continued: “We might have, but we were definitely going because it was free," she said.

“Yeah," he said.

“And it was nice to be able to see that neighborhood, because it was really cute and there’s some nice businesses," she said. "We saw a glass-blowing place. We may not have gone over to support the businesses over there if, as tourists, if you had to pay.”

The ferries are running a limited schedule that Veolia will review expanding if there’s enough demand.

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