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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ferry ridership up after ticket prices slashed

The Cross Bay Ferry docked in the Seddon Channel near the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday, February 9, 2017.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

The Cross Bay Ferry docked in the Seddon Channel near the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday, February 9, 2017.

2

March

After a bumpy start, the CrossBay Ferry linking the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa had a good month of February, helped by slashing weekday ticket prices in half.

A record 6,070 tickets were sold last month, a 57 percent increase from January. Ferry operators credit cutting the weekday one-way fare from $10 to $5 and also cutting by half a value package. 

In January, the ferry wasn't operating during the College Football Championship weekend or during Gasparilla because of a lack of docking space. 

Weekend ridership also set a record. Those ticket prices were not cut, said Rich Mullins, a CrossBay Ferry spokesman. 

"It's more than just price," Mullins said.

The pilot project runs through April. The $1.4 million service was funded equally by St. Petersburg, Tampa and the Pinellas and Hillsborough county governments. 

This morning's press release is below: 

St. Petersburg/Tampa, Fla. (March 2, 2017) – 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 rise from January, and a record for the 6-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,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “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% of passengers dined when they got to their destination, 25% went to museums, 24% shopped, and 11% went to a sporting event. (Not mutually exclusive activities.)  Only 11% of the respondents took the ferry as a "ride," meaning they did not engage in any activity other than riding the ferry.   
  • 60% of passengers spent between $15 and $40 per person at their destination.  
  • Over 95% of respondents rated their experience as excellent or very good, with at least 72% rating it as excellent, for five surveyed factors.
  • 72% of the respondents said it was very important for Tampa Bay to create a regional ferry system.  Respondents put significant weight on the ability for 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 busses.

“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. See www.CrossBayFerry.com and TBARTA myCOMMUTE for more information.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 2, 2017 10:09am]

    

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