The St. Johns River Ferry brought on board a new financial partner Thursday when the Jacksonville Transportation Authority agreed to pay $200,000 for its operation.
The JTA board unanimously approved the support, which comes on top of a $450,000 commitment by the city for the ferry. The vote marks the first time JTA has taken a financial role in the ferry, which runs between Mayport and Heckscher Drive.
Jacksonville Ferry Commission member Elaine Brown said JTA also adds the expertise of its transportation planners.
"It makes Jacksonville better positioned to make mass transit work for everybody," she said after the vote.
A similar measure failed to pass last month when JTA board members voted 3-2 for it, with two board members absent and not voting. Because it is a seven-member board, at least four board members had to vote in favor of the funding.
When the board took it up again Thursday, board members Scott McCaleb and Isaiah Rumlin switched to the "yes" side. They had been opposed last month because they wanted more information from the St. Johns River Ferry Commission about its finances.
The JTA board stipulated Thursday the ferry commission must provide monthly reports that track the finances and ridership for the ferry.
"We hit a little bit of a bump last month, but I'm delighted they've decided to participate," said City Councilman John Crescimbeni, who is chairman of the ferry commission. "It's a vessel, but it is part of the transportation equation in Duval County."
At the JTA board meeting last month, some discussion about the ferry involved whether a long-term funding source could come from extension of the 6-cent local gas tax, which supports the transportation authority but is slated to end in 2016. In that scenario, a small portion of the gas tax would go toward the ferry.
JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Ford said Thursday he would be open to using the gas tax to support the ferry, just as the agency historically has built roads and bridges while running the bus system. "We see ourselves as a multimodal agency," he said.
JTA supports extending the gas tax, but that decision rests with the City Council.
"Our position has always been we'll provide the facts and let the elected officials have the debate about when it's extended," Ford said. "We believe it has to be extended. The question is when."
David Bauerlein: (904) 359-4581
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