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.