HRM council will decide whether to reduce ferry service tonight, and it's not sitting well with some Dartmouth businesses.

The city is recommending that the ferry stop running late at night as part of a cost-cutting measure.

For many, the ferry is a key link between downtown Halifax and downtown Dartmouth.

But city hall says running it late costs a lot, and too few people are using the service.

The city is recommending reducing the service during the day and stopping it after 10:30 p.m.

That would save $282,000 a year, according to officials.

"It has to affect my business," said Jeff Mclatchy, owner of Celtic Corner.

Mclatchy says business will be affected on both sides of the harbour.

He worries people won't come to his bar, and that they won't go to Halifax for evening events such as Mooseheads games.

"We're not thinking it through if we think that, by taking away a boat or two at the end of the day, that somehow the ferry system is going to be healthier," Mclatchy said. "It's healthier if they put more money into marketing it, and getting it used by the citizens of the downtowns."

The councillor for downtown Halifax thinks the ferry service should remain as is.

"I am definitely opposed to any ferry cutbacks or any cutbacks right now of any kind of mass transportation," Coun. Dawn Sloane said Saturday.

In just a few months, hundreds of people will be moving into new high-end condominiums at King's Wharf.

Eventually, with the retail and commercial components, thousands of people will work and live there.

The developer says the ferry is an important service for them.

"We want to be an extension of downtown Halifax. In order to achieve that we have to have the ferry," said Sherry Spicer, vice president of operations at Kings Wharf.

Council is considering three options:

  • Metro Transit can go ahead with the original plan and keep the city on budget.
  • Maintain the current schedule.
  • Council can reduce the service all week long, except Friday and Saturday nights.

"I think if you're going to do it, you'd better do it all week, because people have to be able to rely on some sort of schedule," said Lisa Macpherson, a Dartmouth resident.

"I think it would be more convenient to have it on weekdays, because that's when most of the people work," said Sam Duffney, who also lives in Dartmouth.

Mclatchy has another suggestion.

"Put the price up a little more. It's a harbour ferry. People will pay to use it because it's such a valuable resource," Mclatchy said.

If council approves the cuts, the reduced hours for ferries will begin Aug. 27.