By Marie Gilmore
A new pilot program by Tampa Bay Ferries, to transport residents across the bay from the Convention Center dock to St. Petersburg Pier hub, is underway and residents will cast their votes for the project by buying tickets to demonstrate if this is a wanted service in our community.
The Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project is a regional effort designed to demonstrate water transportation service options to the residents and businesses of the Tampa Bay region, helped in part by a $4.8 million federal transportation grant. The project is a collaboration between St. Petersburg, Tampa, Hillsborough and Pinellas County and will operate for six months between the Vinoy Basin in downtown St. Petersburg and the Tampa Convention Center in downtown Tampa.
Ferry service officially kicked off on November 1 and local elected officials, representatives from local Chamber of Commerce organizations and personnel from MacDill were invited to a special ride to learn more.
“We are very thankful to Sandra Murman and all the elected officials who worked hard to make this happen,” said Ed Turanchik with Akerman LLP, policy advisor for the project. “This is a special trip today from South County with some special representatives from MacDill to give them an idea of what their transportation could be. Our intention is to get MacDill up and running a.s.a.p. This pilot project is very important.”
Air Force Tech Sgt. Isaac Dobson was on the inaugural ride of the ferry and is excited see its plans to come to South County as an option for commuting to MacDill. “Anything that will save me time and money is welcome for me,” said the father of a 9-month-old baby who lives in Riverview and has been assigned to MacDill for six years. “Currently, I take the toll road to work every day.”
The future hopes for the ferry service are to eventually offer a South County dock to transport the 6-8,000 MacDill staff members from Southern Hillsborough County to MacDill daily. Under current plans, the ferry would accept the current transportation reimbursement option for military and there would be no additional cost.
But, to showcase the need, the current passenger ferry service, operating with the 98-ft. 149-seat Provincetown IV, catamaran, is up and running to showcase community usage and viability.
Frontier Communications has signed a major sponsorship deal to provide free ride tickets every third Sunday of the month from November through April.
Dubbed “Ride Free Day, Powered by Frontier,” the deal covers the full $10 one-way ticket price and will begin Sunday, November 20, and continue December 18, January 15, February 19, March 19, April 16.
Among community supporters and partners of the Cross-Bay Ferry: The Tampa Bay Times, Frontier Communications, iHeartMedia, Clear Channel Outdoor, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Downtown Partnership, St. Petersburg Chamber, Visit Tampa Bay, Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater and The Pirate Water Taxi.
Currently rides are $10 per passenger each way and bicycles are welcome on board for $1 each way. Children under 3 ride free. For information and advance tickets, visit CrossBayFerry.com.