Hop aboard the ferry!
LAST UPDATE: 05/04/2022.
The Cross-Bay Ferry is a public/private partnership project between HMS Ferries, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the county governments of Pinellas & Hillsborough, & the cities of St. Petersburg & Tampa.
The purpose of the ferry project is to gauge how such transportation would work in today’s regional climate, including service options. The inaugural 2016/2017 season was to determine how much demand there would be for such a ferry service, and it turned out to be a pretty substantial success based on ridership & fare revenue. Unfortunately, because of funding commitment issues, the ferry did not return for the 2017/2018 season.
For the 2018/2019 season, which began on November 1, 2018; the scheduling was shifted from a 7-day-a-week basis to a 6-day-a-week basis with no service on Mondays due to low ridership. The purpose of the second season is to determine how service on weekends and later evenings would play out – especially if such was to become a permanent “off-peak” component of a planned ferry line between southeastern Hillsborough County & MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa.
The 2018/2019 season also tested out relocated ferry landings in both Downtown St. Pete & the Channelside District in Tampa due to construction at the original ferry landings. In addition to the above, the current season provides customers with the option to transfer in between the ferry & the fare-free TECOline Streetcar in Tampa & the fare-free Looper trolley in St. Pete – both providing expanded 7-day-a-week service.
At the conclusion of the 2018/2019 season, a comprehensive evaluation took place as to whether year-round, permanent ferry service can eventually be established. While there is public support for such a service, many hurdles still remain – including how would the various local governments would fund the service.
My personal opinion – since this is a regional service, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) should take the helm in securing future funding avenues, coordinating the arrangements between the local governments & the state, & oversee the execution of service.
The ferry returned for the 2019/2020 season, though the tail end of that season was adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Service was able to return to the Tampa Convention Center due to the completion of construction.
For the 2020/2021 season, ferry service remained largely the same, but continued to see impacts from Covid. Ridership was able to largely recover by the end of the 2021/2022 season – with the ferry posting record ridership at the tail end.
This information will be updated as it gets closer to the start of the next season.