by Becki Gray
Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation
The question of how to pay for ferries and who pays is a recurring one for the General Assembly, going back at least to 2003. The ferry toll question has been a hot topic in elections, a dilemma for traffic planners, and a bargaining chip in state budget negotiations. It’s an ongoing debate.
Hood has argued that all ferries should be tolled and self-sustaining, paid for by those who use them, adding “Why should taxpayers who aren’t on the ferry, who in many cases have never been on a ferry, subsidize the trips of those enjoying the ride?”
Others argue the ferries are the “roadways” in eastern NC and should be paid for out of the state transportation budget, just like all other road needs.
The ferry question continues in this 2016 short session. HB 1002 was introduced last week. It would eliminate tolling on all of NC’s ferries. Good idea?
JLF favors user fees, reasoning that those who use the service should pay for it and those who do not, should not be forced to pay for something they don’t use. We have not opposed a differential pay system for local residents who are commuting to work or school. Charging a considerable higher fee for non-locals and a “pass card” that local residents could purchase at a reduced rate is worth consideration.
Revenue from tolls accounts for about 6% of the cost to operate them, with the rest made up from general transportation funds. Even with tolls, the ferries are heavy subsidized – the question is will they be totally subsidized or off-set by those who use them with a higher rate for tourists and visitors to the coast?
The discussion continues. What do you think?