The potential of Tampa Bay's untapped resource for regional ferry services is immense. The Tampa Bay Ferries Alliance firmly believes ferry service is a proven, adaptable, and highly effective transit option, offering a cost-effective solution to connect communities and move people efficiently. The Alliance will continue to work with Hillsborough and Pinellas County residents, community partners, and government leaders to make this a reality.
Recently, the Hillsborough County Commissioners' discussed the current ferry plan relating to the South Hillsborough County Ferry Terminal and MacDill Air Force Base Commuter Service and are considering canceling the project. Utilizing the waters of Tampa Bay, this project would connect downtown Tampa, downtown St. Pete, South Hillsborough County (near Apollo Beach and Gibsonton), and MacDill Air Force Base with year-round service.
The ferry plan aims to provide an alternative means of transportation for residents to travel across Tampa Bay, avoiding the inconvenience of dealing with the ever-increasing traffic congestion on the roads and bridges. It is an innovative and, importantly, achievable solution to a problem that has plagued the area for years. However, despite the tremendous merit of the plan, it seems that Hillsborough County Commissioners may decide that the project's estimated expense is too great to justify.
Regardless of the outcome, the decision to cancel the ferry plan is not taken lightly, and the Commissioners must weigh several factors, including expense, before concluding. This vote is scheduled to take place on August 2.
Ideally, this project would be allowed to continue for another year, allowing time to complete the necessary and already funded studies to apply for federal and state funding and other grants. The project team estimated that this funding would cover at least 70% of the project expenses. The 30% remainder could be divided equally among the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
But the costs alone don’t tell the entire story. A regional ferry network would provide tremendous returns for the people, businesses, and service members of Tampa Bay.
1. It would provide career opportunities for locals. A team would be necessary to operate and maintain the ferries, along with employees to work at the landings.
2. A ferry system would draw in tourists and tourist dollars spent. Tampa Bay is already a well-liked tourist destination, and a ferry system would enhance its appeal while keeping cars off the road. Visitors could experience a scenic tour of the bay, explore nearby attractions, and even use the ferries for transportation.
3. It would help alleviate some traffic congestion. Anyone driving around the area knows how congested the roads can be, particularly during rush hour. We all know how locals often plan their travel times around the traffic. A ferry system would get people off the road and give riders a traffic-free trip.
4. Removing cars from the road would reduce pollution, protect our sensitive environment, and increase air quality without additional investments.
5. The MacDill Commuter Ferry could ultimately lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction for those who work at MacDill Air Force base while giving military families time back to spend together rather than sitting in traffic.
And when there is a need for expansion, adjusting schedules based on ridership and adding new routes can quickly be done, making it a cost-effective solution without expensive infrastructure needs like building or expanding roadways.
The Tampa Bay Ferries Alliance has received significant support from our region, and here are just a few comments received:
o I am a retired Coast Guard Command Master Chief. How can I help?
o I am a veteran and would love to help with this great opportunity!
o I am so happy, moved here from Chicago and I so miss the public transportation system. I don't like to drive, can't wait to ferry!!
o I think this is a fantastic addition to the Apollo Beach community, given our strong presence of military employees. We would love to help our community grow.
o I'm a lifelong resident. Such a great use of our beautiful waterways.
o So looking forward to this becoming a reality for the South County areas.
o I’m very excited to see the development of the ferry system.
o I am a resident of Apollo Beach and have experience living overseas, and recognize the importance of having a good mass transit system that has options. This is a huge positive step for the South Shore community.
o I'm a long-time Gibsonton resident and feel that permanent ferry service would benefit not only my community but the surrounding communities as well.
o Let's go!!! Amazing opportunity to advance the region and improve quality of life!
o Thank you for taking up this mission!
o The ferry service will be a great addition to the region!
o The possibilities really are endless!
o This ferry service is such a great convenience and a wonderful way to travel.
o This is a great project. I’m looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.
o This will be a huge benefit to our Military members and the citizens who work on MacDill AFB. It will provide much-needed relief from the congestion at the MacDill gates and the roadways into and out of the base.
o Very much in favor of additional ferry terminals! Our roads cannot handle all the traffic anymore.
o This is long overdue in the Tampa Bay Area.
With water encompassing our area, it would be a missed opportunity not to find more ways to utilize it to solve our most pressing problems.
Any decision to cancel the current ferry plan is premature, given the lack of evaluation by staff on the content of the current development information, which needs to be shared with the board to make an informed decision. With continued support from the community and government leaders, we remain optimistic that a cost-effective solution can make this innovative transit option a reality.
We encourage supporters and local leaders to find a path forward to deliver on this long-sought solution. Supporters are encouraged to wear blue and attend in person and write to the Hillsborough County Commissioners:
In conclusion, the potential benefits of a regional ferry system in the Tampa Bay area are numerous, from providing employment opportunities to reducing traffic congestion and improving the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
The Tampa Bay Ferries Alliance is an independent nonprofit organization committed to bringing quality, sustainable, permanent year-round ferry service to the Tampa Bay region. For more information, visit TampaBayFerriesAlliance.org.