The Cross-Bay Ferry is about to kick off its third season shuttling passengers between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa.
While service officially starts on Nov. 1, the boat made a special voyage Wednesday from St. Pete’s Vinoy Yacht Basin to the Tampa Convention Center, where elected officials from both sides of the bay celebrated the service at a press conference.
“What an opportunity this is to take advantage of a resource that has been ignored for far too long, and that is our waterway. What an opportunity to connect our great two cities and our great two counties in a way that doesn’t require you to get behind the wheel of an automobile and add CO2 emissions to our environment,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who successfully advocated for two years of funding for the service from the St. Pete and Tampa city councils and the Pinellas and Hillsborough county commissions.
With an indirect reference to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council’s recent name change — a move that critics say hurts efforts to work collaboratively to attract new businesses to the area — Kriseman praised the ferry service as a “real example” of regionalism.
“There’s been a lot of talk about regionalization and regionalism lately. Some of it not so good, some of it good. But if you want to see a real example of what can happen when four governments come together and say we want to do something that truly benefits the region, this is an example of what happens when we come together as one,” he said.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said transportation is a critical issue for the area.
“We have got to look at all forms and all modes of transportation,” Castor said. “We may be one of the last areas to discover our waterways as a form of transportation, but we have discovered them … The ridership has increased every single year. The favorability is off the charts. And it connects our communities together. It connects St. Petersburg with Tampa and it allows all of our residents and all of our visitors to see the wonderful and unique characteristics of both cities.”
Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long each said they hoped the current seasonal service would lead to permanent year-round ferry service.
“We’re confident that in just a few more years we will be able to provide thousands of commuters on both sides of the bay ferry service on a commuter level and on the weekends year round,” said Matt Miller, president of HMS Ferries which operates the ferry.
On the return trip to St. Petersburg, Ed Turanchik, the attorney for HMS and a long-time ferry advocate, pointed out two sites in southern Hillsborough County that could be used for permanent commuter service.
Ming Gao, Florida Department of Transportation District Seven modal development administrator, said HMS has been a great private partner. FDOT committed to three years of funding the service as a demonstration project and “the return on investment has been a strong one,” Gao said in a statement.
Here’s what you need to know if you are riding the ferry.
It will run Wednesday through Sunday, with no service on Monday or Tuesday, Nov. 1 through April 30, 2020. The departure times can be found here.
The ferry will operate for all Tampa Bay Lightning home games, even on days it is not normally scheduled to operate, and will remain in Tampa for 30 minutes after the end of each game.
The cost is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors 65 and over, active and retired military and college students, and $3 for youth ages 5 to 18. Younger children ride for free.