MADEIRA BEACH — Come October, the Intracoastal Waterway will turn into transportation hub as a nine-stop ferry begins service between Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and St. Petersburg.
"A water ferry just makes sense for a town surrounded by water," said City Manager Shane Crawford.
Three Tampa Bay Ferry & Taxi boats will be operated by Hubbard's Marina, where they will be moored, in a public-private partnership with the city of Madeira Beach.
The ferries will cover the route three days a week (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) during season and two days a week (Friday and Saturday) in the offseason, a schedule that could be increased to match demand, according to Mark Hubbard.
The grand opening will be Oct. 28 during the John's Pass Seafood Festival. The ferries will run the loop five times a day during the season and three times in the offseason.
"We are excited for the opportunity to show off our beautiful location while getting people to where they need to be," Hubbard said during a news conference Wednesday at City Hall.
Eventually, the ferry operator hopes to extend the route to other locations in Treasure Island, St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Gulfport, Anna Maria in Manatee County, Clearwater and Dunedin.
Waterborne transportation was considered by the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization in a 2002 report that said "at some point some form of public support" would be necessary to make ferry services viable. Madeira Beach is subsidizing the service with $25,000 in city money.
At the time, the MPO suggested it would be most feasible for such a service to provide "point-to-point, destination-oriented" stops.
John's Pass Village was one of the five top sites envisioned as a ferry stop in the report, which said the area would be a "natural choice" with an existing infrastructure.
"This will have a great impact for us and tourism," said Robin Sollie, president of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.
"We are looking forward to offering residents and visitors an alternative way to get around our city," Mayor Travis Palladeno said Wednesday. "Waterways are the future of transportation for our city."