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Cross Bay Ferry cruises to record ridership connecting St. Pete, Tampa

Transit leaders want a year-long ferry option
Cross Bay Ferry cruises to record ridership connecting St. Pete and Tampa
Posted at 5:32 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 18:26:17-04

ST. PETERSURG, Fla. — The Cross Bay Ferry is cruising to a new record! 53,544 riders have jumped on board the ferry over the past six months (as of April 10). That represents a 2% increase over pre-pandemic seasonal numbers and with three weeks still left in the season, which ends May 1.

Transit leaders said they hope the record ridership creates momentum for a year-round ferry service with no traffic, no stop lights, just wide-open water.

Denise Condlin is visiting St. Petersburg and would love to see it come to fruition.

“We’re in St. Petersburg and to get over to Tampa so quickly, it’s really convenient and a great idea,” she said.

While thousands of people are cruising on the Cross Bay Ferry, right now, the number of trips connecting St. Pete and Tampa are limited.

Michelle Pevarski lives in St. Pete and says that’s a reason she doesn’t take the ferry more often.

“If you have visitors over, you don’t always want to go on a weekend when it’s really crowded,” Pevarski elaborated.

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Transit leaders like Hillsborough County Commission Chair Kimberly Overman would like to see ferry service year round with added stops in South Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base. The long-term proposal includes using land donated by the Mosaic Company for the South County ferry terminal.

“One of the barriers to being able to serve this region has historically been that we have a big bay in the middle of our community. It’s true, but when we use it, it’s not a bad thing,” Overman said. “Clearly, people are ready for transit usage we have to just provide the infrastructure and we don’t quite have it as robust as I’d like to see it and I’m sure many others would like to see too.”

Ed Turanchik is also an advocate for a permanent year-round Cross Bay Ferry solution.

“We are the only major waterfront community in the United States that does not use our waterways to move people around,” he said.

Adding ferry service year-round would require a 350-person boat, plus dedicated terminals in Pinellas and Hillsborough County. Turanchik says those costs are expected to tally up to around $50 million.

“It costs the county $20 million to $30 million to widen a road one mile so this is cheap in transportation terms,” Turanchik said in comparison adding that currently the Cross Bay Ferry completes 150,000 trips in a season.

The expansion would allow them to do about 10 times as many trips throughout the year, according to Turanchik.

Overman said they would look for ways to divvy up costs between local, state, federal and private funding pools. Once it’s built, HMS Ferries leaders tell Hillsborough County leaders that they would not require further public subsidies.

This season’s ferry service will wrap up May 1 and return in October. The Cross Bay Ferry originally launched in 2016 and is about to complete its fifth season.

In February, the Federal Transit Administration awarded Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) a $4.9 million grant to buy a new 350-person boat that HART requested last October.

The latest information on the ferry’s remaining season, schedule, and ticket purchasing is available online as well as at ticket booths at the ferry’s docks, near the Tampa Convention Center and the St. Petersburg Vinoy Basin.

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