Greg Piner: End ferry tolls

April 6, 2013 

End ferry tolls

Starting July 1, the N.C. General Assembly will increase tolls on three ferries and add tolls on two river commuter ferries (“3 legislators push for toll-free ferries” April 2). The plan is destined to fail, costing the state millions in overhead, while generating little revenue.

The sad irony is that our ferry system has tremendous potential to increase tax revenue for the state by simply eliminating all ferry tolls. The ferry toll process is a terrible way to raise revenue. Just over $2 million per year of gross revenue is collected from tolling the Southport, Ocracoke and Swan Quarter ferries. What isn’t often discussed is that it costs almost $1 million per year in labor and IT expenses to collect that $2 million.

Now the real paradox. In spite of the inefficient tolling operations, the ferry system still generates tens of millions of dollars of tax revenue each year. In 2012 ridership on all N.C. ferries was just under 900,000 vehicles, of which about half were tourists. Using the state’s own estimates, the tourists spend on average $1,003 per stay. The total economic impact for coastal N.C. was $478 million dollars, generating over $42 million in tax revenue.

Get rid of all the ferry tolls and help the coastal region prosper.

Greg Piner

Oriental

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