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Cross-Bay Ferry service to return, and will go year-round in 2024

Veronica Brezina

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(Photo: Cross-Bay Ferry)

The seasonal Cross-Bay Ferry that connects Tampa and St. Pete will no longer ride a wave of uncertainty, as an agreement has been reached to keep it cruising for several years, and later become a year-round service.

During a Hillsborough County commissioner’s meeting, in a 6-1 vote, the majority of the board voted to enter an agreement to financially support the waterborne service over the next four years, and increase its status to year-round operation by 2024.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, have touted the seasonal service as a viable form of transit since it was launched in 2017. The ferry has carried thousands of commuters between the two metros, creating less congestion on the Howard Frankland and Gandy bridges. It also takes advantage of the waterways, which many transit leaders say have been ignored as one solution to Tampa Bay’s traffic woes.

The expiration of the current three-year license and operating agreement ended in May, which called for the city of St. Petersburg to issue a new solicitation for continued inter-city ferry service.

However, Kriseman – along with Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp – agreed on  Hillsborough County taking the lead for this agreement with ferry operator HMS Ferries Inc. and South Swell Development.

According to Hillsborough County documents, the groups agreed that the county would negotiate an agreement rather than St. Petersburg issuing a new solicitation,

The county’s agreement is contingent on an interlocal agreement funding by each of the four participating governments: Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, with each contributing equally.

The agreement also states that any ferry ticket revenue exceeding $400,000 will be shared in a 50/50 split between HMS and Hillsborough County, which will then be shared equally among the four participating governments.

The service schedule over the next four years, according to Hillsborough County documents:

Year One: The service will run from Oct. 1, 2021 through April 30, 2022. The entire cost for this season’s service is $900,000.

Year Two: The service will run from Oct. 1, 2022 through May 31, 2023. The entire cost for this season’s service is $960,000.

Year Three: The service will run from Oct. 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. The entire cost for this season’s service is just over $1 million.

Year Four: the service will run from October 1, 2024 through Sept. 30, 2025. The entire cost for this season’s service is $1.22 million.

The 149-passenger, catamaran ferry will continue to dock at the Vinoy Boat Basin, adjacent to the St. Pete Pier while the Tampa Convention Center will continue to serve as the Tampa terminus.

HMS local operations management and support team will be located in St. Petersburg, as it is the only location that can accommodate overnight storage and support of the chartered ferry vessel.

What to know about this season’s service

The service, which kicks off in October, is scheduled to have a weekend transit service between St. Pete and downtown Tampa on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The ferry operators will continue to operate weeknight schedules to provide connections between the two downtowns when there are special events, and will operate service on all nights when the Tampa Bay Lightning are playing home games.

The fare pricing will range from $8 to $12 for a one-way ticket. There are lower fares for children, military members, seniors and those who are disabled.

The one-way transit time is 55 minutes.

 

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Danny E White

    June 16, 2021at3:19 pm

    I have since 2017 attempted to make financial sense of this service that was initially and continues to touted as an alternative to traffic congestion on the Howard Frankland Bridge: “The fare pricing will range from $8 to $12 for a one-way ticket. There are lower fares for children, military members, seniors and those who are disabled. The one-way transit time is 55 minutes.” If a 9-to-5, M-F commuter uses the SEASONAL service, they could pay, let’s say $12×2=$24 for a roundtrip. That’s $120 weekly. Add daily parking fees and destination ground transportation (Uber, bus, cab, etc), and there is no telling how much one would actually spend in total each week. Add to that a 55-minute to and from cruise time seems likely to elicit a HARD NO for many cross-day commuters. Gas, time and convenience seem to collide to make this ferry service a good thing for TOURISTS only! Something feels very off about this venture.

  2. Avatar

    Marilyn Westropp

    June 16, 2021at3:40 pm

    This sounds interesting. Options are drive car, park and pay for parking plus Ferry Fair or take uber/lyft to destination. I wonder how many people will take advantage of this service. I certainly am going to take a ride in the near future. I love Ferry’s and great for our guests from out of town. New experiences are certainly exciting.

  3. Avatar

    Karen Douglas

    June 16, 2021at4:36 pm

    I have been wanting to get down to St Pete and try this ferry out..very glad it is returning….now I will plan an group outing

  4. Avatar

    Steve

    June 16, 2021at5:17 pm

    Very interesting initiative, however it still not a good option for a daily commuter. I work in downtown St.Pete and my wife works on downtown Tampa. My drive is 40 miles each way, I would be a daily user for this service ASAP, however $24 per day plus the additional parking fees it is out of proportion. A financially sound option for the daily commuter should be evaluated.

  5. Avatar

    Another Steve

    June 16, 2021at7:04 pm

    I’m not one of them, but a significant number of people live in downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa. Some DTSP residents even manage without owning a vehicle at all, how nice would that be? The point is, many folks can walk to the ferry and do not incur additional transportation and parking fees. Certainly convenient for those St. Pete Lightning fans who may wish to enjoy an adult beverage and some Bay breeze on the way to a game. Apart from that, it is great for tourists. Something to be encouraged!

  6. Avatar

    Karen Swedberg

    June 17, 2021at5:32 am

    Why not have a monthly pass with a reduced fee for daily commmuters, make them the bread and butter customers! Chicago has monthly fees for all forms of daily commuters, Lake Superior has a ferry that transports people and vehicles between Bayfield to Madeline Island, my point is that there are a number of options to provide a reliable transportation option to relieve the congestion on our roads!

  7. Avatar

    Joseph Weston

    September 2, 2021at7:53 pm

    If one has a residence in Florida, a monthly pass should be available for actual daily commuters. This will help with costs, scanning tickets (which takes forever), and actually help congestion. Save the $8-$12 for visiting hockey fans, tourists, etc.

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