Gretna is getting a downtown bus route for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, and parish officials have commissioned a transit study to look into bringing back ferry service connecting West Jefferson to downtown New Orleans.
The two moves were part of a contract extension between Jefferson Parish and Transdev Services Inc. approved by the Parish Council last week.
The contract, which began in 2011 and was set to expire at the end of next month, was given a two-year extension under which Transdev, formerly Veolia Transportation, agreed to bring a bus line back to the parish seat and to initiate the $50,000 ferry study, said Jefferson Parish Councilman Ricky Templet, who represents the area.
Transdev also operates the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s buses, streetcars and ferries. Templet said downtown Gretna needs public transportation because of its concentration of government offices, including 24th Judicial District Court, 2nd Parish Court, the District Attorney’s Office, the parish’s general government building, the parish Clerk of Court and Assessor’s Offices and Gretna’s City Hall.
“This will give greater access to public services to people on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish,” he said.
The weekday bus line will begin running in April, and Templet said it comes at no additional cost to the parish or to riders.
An official with Transdev could not be reached for comment.
As for the ferry study, Templet said the parish could get the findings back in about six months.
The ferry service between downtown Gretna and the foot of Canal Street officially stopped running in July 2013, but the ferry actually had been out of commission since the previous April because of staffing issues.
The decision to shut it down came after the state stopped subsidizing the area’s ferry boats with money from tolls on the Crescent City Connection — tolls that voters ultimately eliminated in a referendum.
The Algiers ferry service was taken over by the New Orleans RTA and is run by Transdev, albeit at a higher cost to riders and on shortened hours. It no longer accommodates vehicles.
Part of Transdev’s agreement with the state, which provides some funding for the ferry service through money that remained in the CCC toll account, requires Transdev to keep the Chalmette ferry running.
The line between Gretna and the CBD always was a pedestrians-only ferry. It carried 25,496 passengers the year before it closed. It cost about $3.9 million a year to operate.
Templet said he hopes the study can come up with some viable ways to bring the Gretna ferry back. He said its previous incarnation was plagued with mechanical difficulties and an erratic schedule, which hurt ridership because people couldn’t depend on it.
“In the past, the ferry was never dependable,” he said. “Half the time it was broken down.”
Transdev has been able to bring back ferry service for special events such as Gretna Fest, which is held once a year in October.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.