Cross-Bay Ferry reveals early ridership numbers

13,000 riders of the ferry so far
Posted at 5:17 PM, Jan 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-11 17:17:12-05

We're two months into the Cross-Bay Ferry experiment and supporters are already calling it a success!

New ridership numbers were announced Wednesday and it shows an increase in ridership.

About 13,000 people have rode on the ferry so far that goes between Tampa and St. Petersburg.

4,700 people rode the ferry in November, and about 5,400 people rode the ferry in December.

Ferry organizers also announced an advertising campaign for the ferry to begin shortly, that includes a TV commercial spot, and a billboard, aimed to attract tourists and commuters.

Ferry operators say they made back about 46 percent of their operating costs in November, which they say is a good rate and one expected to rise. They say that's a higher rate of return than the bus systems in Pinellas and Hillsborough.

"We are learning the lessons that only a real-life test can provide, which is why we wanted to run this six-month pilot project," explains St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, adding that he is very pleased with the ferry progress so far. "So far, people are voting with their feet to ride it. That's a great sign for developing a better future around our Tampa Bay waterfront."

St. Petersburg joined Tampa, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County to pool together about $1.4 million to start the trial program of the Cross-Bay Ferry, which will runs through April of 2017.

The average ride is $10, but there are lower rates for seniors, children, and commuters.

Not all support the plan, like Dan Liedtke, a Pinellas County resident who serves of Gulfport's city council.

"The December Cross-Bay ridership numbers continue to prove the pilot project is a waste of the citizen's money," Liedtke tells ABC Action News. "Today the mayor of St. Pete took another step in wasting tax dollars by promoting a questionable narrative through a paid Facebook post that contains nothing but spin. Mayor Kriseman either intentionally left out or doesn't understand capital costs and it's not clear on how many riders actually paid their own way. If we assume all riders paid their own way and ridership continues at the existing pace, then the cost to the citizens of Pinellas and Hillsborough is around $30 per rider. That is comparable to most Amtrak routes. So we basically have Amtrak on Tampa Bay thanks to the Kriseman administration."