TAMPA, Fla. — People are definitely riding the Cross-Bay Ferry across Tampa Bay.
- Cross-Bay Ferry ridership numbers set record this season
- Cross-Bay Ferry Q & A
- Permanent ferry service on the horizon?
- Previous stories on the Cross-Bay ferry
Midway through its seasonal 2020 run, the ferry connecting Tampa's and St. Petersburg's downtowns is doing carrying more people on its 50-minute trips across the bay.
The ferry has had 33,144 passengers so far this season, compared to 39,103 during its first season.
Ridership also has grown robustly over the last season, up by 43 percent over the 23,120 passengers who rode it by this time last year.
Ridership gains are up on all travel days, with weekday ridership up 28 percent and weekend ridership up 48 percent. The ferry runs Wednesday - Sunday.
Ferry officials and riders along have talked about the ferry's punctuality.
So far this season, 88 percent of ferry trips have departed within one minute of the scheduled time, and only 1 percent of ferry trips were delayed by more than five minutes.
"We are achieving a performance level that you usually only see on rail systems," said Kevin Fisher, project manager for HMS Ferries, the operator of the Cross-Bay Ferry. "People know that we will be on time and will get to their destination on-time, no matter the weather or roadway conditions."
Still, the operation's future as a permanent feature remains unknown.
The ferry currently runs from November to April.
City officials and Pinellas and Hillsborough commissioners have discussed the service being full time by 2022. That plan would blend the MacDill Air Force Base commuter service with the existing Tampa/St. Pete route.
Some lawmakers point to the ridership numbers, saying the ferry is a worthy investment while others have said any expanded service would be too costly right now.
According to Spectrum Bay News 9 partner newspaper the Tampa Bay Times, any further decisions on the status of the ferry have been pushed to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.
Tickets are $8 each way for adults, with discounts for passengers 65 and older, active or retired members of the military, college students. The ferry has a capacity of 149 passengers.
HMS Ferries, which operates the venture, partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation. St. Pete, Tampa, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. All are contributing $150,000 each to cover operating costs.