Year-round Cross Bay Ferry Service could become permanent in Tampa Bay

The proposed service would operate between 12 and 16 hours per day.

click to enlarge Year-round Cross Bay Ferry Service could become permanent in Tampa Bay

Commuters, cross your fingers!

If an August 1 town hall meeting goes well, Tampa Bay could have permanent ferry service in three years.

HMS Ferries and partner, South Swell Development Group, is seeking county partnership for the development of a permanent, 7-days-a-week ferry service in Tampa Bay. On August 1, the matter will be brought before Town Hall Commissioners Pat Kemp, Mariella Smith, and Kimberly Overman. Community members are encouraged to attend, learn more and ask questions, according to the Facebook event page.

The proposed service would operate between 12 and 16 hours per day, according to a recent Cross Bay Ferry press release

HMS and SSDG have requested $36 million in funds from the county and other agencies for the construction of publicly owned ferry terminals, docks, vessels and trams that could be utilized for the ferry service. However, HMS has committed to cover all operating, maintenance and repair costs of the system for a 20-year period, at cost. This cost, estimated to be at least $104 million, would fall entirely on HMS and SSDG, with no subsidies from local taxpayers.

“This would be the first local public transit system in Florida that would not require a local or state operating subsidy,” the release states.

HMS and SSDG believe that the implementation of this ferry service serves as an affordable alternative to other public transportation decongestion efforts. 

“Most local roadway projects cost between $40 million and $100 million, with an average cost of between $20 and $30 million per mile…. By contrast, the ferry project is low cost, at just $36 million, with an average cost of under $6 million per mile if you just spread it over the distance of the (MacDill Air Force Base) run. But if you spread the capital cost out over the distance of all runs, the cost is under $700,000,” The release states.

HMS has proposed a route designed specifically for, and free to, many of those working at MacDill Air Force Base. Federal transit vouchers would cover parking, the ferry and tram service, while those without vouchers would pay a $15 charge. Government workers commuting to MacDill Air Force Base from the proposed Williams Park ferry terminal would cut their commute down from a 45-minute drive around the top of the bay to a roughly 14-minute commute by using the ferry. Three 149 passenger catamarans would cycle through the terminals every 10 to 15 minutes, according to the release.

During weeknights and weekends, two of these ferries would connect South County, Downtown St. Petersburg and Downtown Tampa, with additional vessels added based on events at Amalie Arena or Tropicana Field. These routes would cost roughly $8 per trip for adults, $5 for students, military and seniors, and children under 4 would be free.

HMS and SSDG estimate that, with prompt approval, the ferries could be up and running in three years.

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