Robert F. Kennedy once said, “One-fifth of the people are against everything.”
That number has actually always seemed kind of low to me. Doesn’t it seem like everyone is always railing against everything? Almost to the point where it is exhausting?
I have never really thought of myself as one of those people in the “one-fifth,” especially when it comes to how governmental bodies spend our tax dollars.
I do believe every city and state needs certain “quality of life” amenities that make living in that particular locale more desirable. And I don’t mind my tax dollars funding projects that make sense, such as parks, gardens, cycling and walking trails, museums (well ones with themes that will actually draw people) and yes, even a nice municipal auditorium or civic center that can host important community events like graduations, job fairs, concerts, sporting activities and, in our case, Mardi Gras balls and receptions.
Although the first plan The Cordish Companies (the outfit chosen to demolish and re-imagine the aging Mobile Civic Center) unveiled to do this did not include an arena to accommodate such activities, they have said this plan is in the “embryonic stages” and that may change. I remain hopeful Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the council members are listening to their constituents and downtown stakeholders, and this plan will indeed change. I have yet to hear a single person, business owner or surrounding neighborhood in favor of the plan that has been presented thus far.
And if the ruckus over the tolls on the proposed Interstate 10 bridge taught us anything, it’s that our leaders actually will listen if enough noise is made. So we need to continue to make noise over the bridge and the Cordish project.
It will be interesting to see what ultimately happens with the bridge, but one thing is for certain: It’s just sickening how much money has already been wasted on it.
Hopefully, we won’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.
But in the aftermath of the bridge being pronounced dead, Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson met to explore the possibility of passenger ferries from Mobile to Fairhope as one of the alternatives to the bridge. Former Mayor Mike Dow, who now heads up GulfQuest, has always been and continues to be a huge proponent of these high-speed ferries too.
Both sides say this discussion is “super preliminary,” but I fear we may be about to jump back in the same boat, so to speak, on a project that sounds romantic and wonderful and the answer to all of our problems, but ultimately fails to thrive and ends up being a drain.
Let me be the first to say, the idea of a passenger ferry for recreational purposes seems really cool. It would be fun to head over the bay and grab a bite to eat and some drinks with friends on occasion. But while I love the idea of it, how often would it actually be used? It’s hard to say.
Pensacola purchased two, 150-passenger ferries in 2018 with BP money and a federal grant, but the original company who operated it “declined to sign a contract for another year after, saying it lost more than $300,000 in less than six months due to low ridership and high operation costs,” according to an April 2019 Pensacola News Journal article. Perhaps their problems were different, but it should certainly serve as a cautionary tale and something we should study.
I know it’s still “super preliminary,” but our leaders are not just looking into ferries for recreational purposes, but also for the daily commute. And I hate to be a Negative Nancy again after also hating on the proposed Cordish plan — I swear I’m really not like this — but I just don’t see how this would work.
These are my questions/concerns:
- If we are doing this as a way to alleviate traffic on the Bayway and Causeway, how many cars would it actually take off of the roadways; 1,000-2,000 tops? I am certainly no traffic engineer (that’s why I am asking), but is that even enough to make a dent in the congestion we see in the summertime? And would it actually cut down the commute time for residents?
- In a 2004 study done by the Southwest Alabama Regional Planning Commission, they projected a minimum fee of $4.50-$6 to ride the ferry each way. And that was 15 years ago, so certainly it would be more now. If people were absolutely melting down over the thought of a $6 toll, what makes anyone think they would pay this every day each way?
- The ferry they are currently looking at would initially run Mobile to Fairhope. I would venture to guess more people who work in Mobile live in Daphne and Spanish Fort (for obvious reasons). Would they be expected to drive to Fairhope to get to Mobile? If so, I don’t really see people doing that.
- How dependable are the schedules and how much does weather affect their operation? If you aren’t positive you are going to make it to work on time or back in time to pick up your kids from daycare of aftercare then I don’t see how this works.
- How are you supposed to get around after you are dropped off at the ferry terminal? You can see where ferries work in major metropolitan areas because there is a subway station or bus stop within walking distance. But our public transportation systems are not very robust and that’s being kind. So would you have to take an Uber once you arrived? So then there’s an additional cost on top of the ferry ride? Again, if people won’t pay $6 to travel in their own car on the Bayway, why would they go to the expense and trouble to do this?
- And finally, I just don’t see any parent — especially those with small kids — being stranded and without a quick, reliable way to get to their child if their school called and said they were sick or hurt or were vaping in the bathroom and needed to be beaten immediately or whatever. Just the thought of this scenario and having to find a ride back down to the ferry terminal, waiting for it and then getting across the bay back to my child on their schedule literally makes me sweat a little. Plus, how am I going to run to Target, Michaels or Academy at lunch to pick up whatever crap they need for school or sports the next day?
Again, I am not trying to be Negative Nancy, just Practical Patty, and maybe I am just not understanding what is trying to be accomplished here, but I do think we need our leaders to be Sensible Sandy and Kautious Karin before moving forward with this, as I am just not sure many of us are actually “onboard” just yet.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).