Ferry service between Charlotte and Essex, New York has been suspended due to “significantly reduced” traffic, according to the Lake Champlain Transportation Company.
Heather Stewart, the company’s operation manager, said people are just staying home and not using the ferry because of the coronavirus.
“We run at a loss in the wintertime down there historically, and then it got worse,” she said. “So we’re laying off crew.”
Stewart said about 10 crew members have been let go as the company suspended that route.
“What we’re going to do is focus on keeping service on the Grand Isle crossing. We want to keep that link,” she said. “We want to be open be open at Charlotte-Essex, and we want to be at the other side of this crisis. People are just not moving. We do not have business at the Charlotte-Essex crossing.”
The suspension of service is a hardship for regular commuters like Sally Smith of Essex, New York. She takes the ferry weekly to visit her homebound mother in Shelburne.
“It is true that I can drive around by way of the [Crown Point] bridge. But if I do that trip, it adds three hours to my day,” she said. “But what I think is even more difficult is for people who are using the ferry service because they are traveling to UVM for medical reasons, for chemotherapy, dialysis, things like that.”
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Smith said she has been a regular ferry customer for years, and does not understand why the company suspended the service.
“The whole region of the Adirondacks that uses the medical facilities – we really rely on that,” she said.
The ferry occasionally stops running in winter due to ice, and that’s to be expected, she said. But for it to stop now?
"Because they say they don’t have the money for it — is really frustrating," Smith said.
She added the ferry is like a bridge, tunnel or any other key piece of transportation infrastructure.
“It’s not just that it’s inconvenient," Smith said. "People are so stressed now already, that to add this on to their daily commute, and to take extra time now to find people to cover for them because the trip is going to take so much longer, it seems so unnecessary, and it seems cruel."
Stewart, the ferry company’s operations manager, said she knows the decision is a hardship but the company had little choice.
“We’re responding to this. We’re in crisis mode,” she said. “So as soon and thing get better and return to normal, we’ll be back.”