Cross-Bay Ferry Ridership Up, Prices Down
The Cross-Bay Ferry sold a record 6,000 tickets in February.
TAMPA BAY – The Cross-Bay Ferry carried a record 6,000-plus paying passengers in February, and experienced significant ridership growth in February for both weekday and weekend service between Tampa and St. Petersburg.
During February, Cross Bay Ferry sold 6,070 tickets, a 57 percent increase from January, and a record for the six-month test. The ferry has now carried nearly 23,000 people since the pilot project began. Weekday (Mon.-Thurs.) ticket sales grew 80 percent to 2,237, and weekend (Fri./Sat./Sun.) ticket sales grew 46 percent to 3,833. The ferry departed within an average of one minute of schedule, including times during tough weather that closed the Sunshine Skyway.
“This pilot project is meant to test all aspects of ferry service in real life – prices, times and services – and I’m very pleased with the response so far,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “Everyone I meet who has taken the ferry raves about it and asks if we can run it more often.”
Ticket sales bounced back from the relatively slow month of January, and ferry managers pointed to a combination of factors helping boost February ridership: More pleasant weather, new lower prices during the week, and a growing awareness of the ferry as an enjoyable option for crossing the Bay.
The ferry recently launched discounted $5 one-way tickets during weekdays, new discounts on Tampa Streetcar fares, and the Commuter Value Pass package price is also cut by 50 percent to just $2.50 per trip. A recent survey of ferry passengers found a series of revealing trends:
*More than 90% of the respondents were residents, not tourists.
*Ferry passengers had a positive economic impact on local businesses. Specifically, 77 percent of passengers dined when they got to their destination; 25 percent went to museums; 24 percent shopped; and 11 percent went to a sporting event. (Not mutually exclusive activities.) Only 11 percent of the respondents took the ferry as a “ride,” meaning they did not engage in any activity other than riding the ferry.
*60 percent of passengers spent between $15 and $40 per person at their destination.
*More than 95 percent of respondents rated their experience as excellent or very good, with at least 72 percent rating it as excellent, for five surveyed factors.
*72 percent of the respondents said it was very important for Tampa Bay to create a regional ferry system. Respondents put significant weight on the ability of ferries to relieve congestion, promote tourism and economic development, and make Tampa Bay a more enjoyable fun place to live and visit.
Project advisor Ed Turanchik noted that ferry operating revenues were covering more than a third of operating costs, which is considerably higher than the operating recovery percentage of any transit system on the west coast of Florida, including buses.
“We began testing different prices and new connectivity earlier this month,” Turanchik said. “We know that fully robust commuter service will only be possible with much more frequent service, which isn’t possible during this short test and just one boat. But now we know with the certainty of a real-life test that there is strong demand for water transportation.”
The Cross-Bay Ferry is contracted to run from November 2016 through April 2017 to test community interest for water transit. Recently, the Cross-Bay Ferry began regular, weekday service and launched a Commuter Value Pass program that comes with free taxi rides home for those who miss the last ferry trip.
Photo courtesy of Cross-Bay Ferry.
Cross-Bay Ferry | Transportation | TBARTA | Commuting | Tampa Bay Reporter
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