Some of the council members like Kristin Palmer, who district includes the French Quarter and Algiers, displayed signs indicating it's been 67 days with no ferry. "The management system was flawed, deeply flawed," Palmer said. "The operations and maintenance of the ferry system has been deeply flawed. So, we're hear to get some answers."It's good to see something being done about the "commuter problem," at least. Last week, the city seemed more focused on compensating Algiers Point business owners for our sudden inability to deliver tourists for them to cater to. There's no doubt those businesses have suffered, of course. But for some reason the city always seems to consider workers as an afterthought. (Did you know, this week, an American city implemented fare-free transit for its riders? Can you even imagine New Orleans RTA currently helmed by a "fare enforcement" specialist considering such a thing?)
RTA Board Chairman Flozell Daniels' agreed. "The process was managed poorly," Daniels said. "There was not as much accountability as there should have been The contractor did not do what we thing was the right job to make sure it was managed appropriately."
Daniels promised the RTA is now trying to do better for the public. Two new ferry boats, delivered about 18 months ago have yet to pass Coast Guard inspection. The $10 million vessels were supposed to replace two older boats, neither of which is currently in working condition. People who rely on the ferries to get to work are hurting.
"We've ignored the fact that this is a commuter problem," commuter Fabienne Keenum said. "This is public transportation and I and other service industry and lower income workers rely that ferry to get across."
Anyway, why won't they name the charter boat operator? Obviously they have somebody in mind. Please don't tell us we can "Ride The Ducks" across the river anytime soon. You laugh, but thinking about public transit exclusively in terms of amusement rides for tourists is exactly how Mitch Landrieu got us into the Metal Shark problem in the first place. Here's a public post by Clark Thompson that's been making the rounds on Facebook. I assume it's okay to share here, in a different public part of the internet. He introduces it as a letter to the mayor he wrote in 2016. Basically, the style of boat that Mitch ordered was never fit to operate on the Mississippi River.
I am not a bidder on the RTA ferry project, therefore I am late to the game, but I recently learned some details of the RFP (for some reason the document is not publicly available).We've also noted previously and repeatedly, the various concerns with the contractor itself. I think this post has most of that in one place. But the overriding factor seems to be that Mitch thought the catamarans were cool. So that's what he bought. Let's hope the charter contractor is chosen according to more reasonable criteria.
As a long time ferry user, a USCG licensed captain, a Naval Architect, a builder of aluminum boats, and a principal investigator on marine building materials for Army Research Labratory, I have grave concerns regarding this RFP.
This RFP requests a high speed, catamaran hull, fabricated from aluminum. Such a vessel is well suited to the long runs on the Hudson River, and in Sydney Harbor. Such a request flies in the face of hundreds of years of experience of operations on the Mississippi River.
First, this is a short run, and a high speed boat will have no time to get up to speed before it must slow back down. The medium speed diesel engines will not have time to blow themselves clean, and will end up running dirty. This will in turn lead to considerably higher than projected maintainence costs and downtime. Furthermore, in order to obtain the required speed, larger engines must be selected, further driving up total cost of ownership.
Second, catamarans have poor low speed manuverability. The complicated eddies on the east bank ferry landing require a highly manuverable boat. Bow thrusters are a poor substitute for a proper initial design and are another item of maintainence that will further drive up total cost of ownership and downtime.
Third, aluminum is a poor material for impact. While this lightweight material is acceptable for the garbage strewn waterways of the Hudson or Sydney Harbor, it is ill suited to the frequent impacts with whole trees, oil drums and other large debris carried by the Mississippi river. Look along the waterfront and you will find centuries of experience dictate steel as the prefered material for watercraft along the Mississippi. Only small response boats are build in aluminum here. This flawed material specification will result in a high risk of downtime for the ferry, and much higher than projected total cost of ownership.
I address this message to you as a lover of the city and the river. Our city will suffer with the impact of a bad decision on this contract for 30 years or more and it is critically important to get it right.
Please consider delaying this contract award until the RFP has been corrected to properly request a boat suitable for the Mississippi River operating environment.