The ferry service between Winona and Wisconsin began today. It's the only way residents on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi can make it to work or shopping on the Minnesota side -- thus the willingness of Minnesota to pay to get them there. The bridge spanning the bridge was closed by Minnesota last week.
At first, the pricetag of $85,000 a week seems a hefty sum to pay to move the estimated 2,800 Wisconsinites across the river. That works out to $30 per person per week, and the odds are those people put more than $30 a week into the Winona economy. According to one report today, some businesses in Winona report sales have dropped 25 percent since the bridge closed. The people using the service will pay $15 a week, so half the cost is recouped.
There are 17 trips a day to Winona in the morning and 17 from Winona in the afternoon.
One-hundred-seventy trips a week at $85,000 works out to $500 per trip.
As ferries go, it's not an exhorbitant amount. The Madeline Island Ferry, for example, charges $11 round trip, and everybody -- even kids -- pay. In Winona, you can take up to 3 kids on the ferry on your pass at no additional charge. It falls far short, however, of the best bargain in New York -- the Staten Island Ferry, which is free.
I live in Winona and am still amazed that bicycles and foot traffic are prohibited from crossing the bridge. The ferry service is a nice, but incomplete solution.
Downtown Winona seemed fairly dead this morning at 7:30am, the bridge is a bigger artery than people think.
This is a great solution. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and the ferry connects the dots.
Sometimes existing or "old" technology is the best answer to a problem.
Plus, it's incredible how much can be achieved when Minnesotans actually agree to (gasp!) share the ride.