TAMPA — Tickets went on sale Thursday for the third season of Cross-Bay Ferry service between the Tampa Convention Center and the Vinoy Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg.
The ferry is scheduled to run Nov. 1 through April 30, 2020. Tickets are $8 each way for adults, with discounts for passengers 65 and older, active or retired members of the military, college students and minors.
“It’s less expensive than an Uber ride, even for two people or three people,” ferry marketing executive Ben Lee said.
This year the ferry will run Wednesdays through Sundays, with no regular service on Mondays or Tuesdays, which saw light ridership during the first two seasons of the service.
The exception will be any day there is a Tampa Bay Lightning home game. On those days, including Mondays and Tuesday, organizers said the ferry will run to carry fans to and from Tampa before and after the games.
“The message is simple,” said Ed Turanchik, a longtime transportation advocate and the attorney for ferry operator HMS Ferries. “If you’re in South Pinellas and you want to go to a Lightning game, take the ferry. No waiting on the bridge.”
Last year, the 149-passenger ferry did not offer service for every game night, but when it did, it sold 70 percent of its seats, Turanchik said. This year, with service for every game and better marketing, organizers aim to fill every seat on game nights.
This year, the ferry also is increasing its Friday and Saturday service, with four round trips on each day, plus three round trips on Sundays.
The ferry is a public-private partnership between HMS Ferries and the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa, Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, and the Florida Department of Transportation, each of which is contributing $150,000 to support the service. The Lightning and Sparkman Wharf in Tampa are donating marketing and promotion for the service.
In its first year, the ferry carried about 38,000 passengers. Last year, it reached 53,000 passengers. Organizers expect up to 60,000 this year.
Along with building seasonal ridership, Turanchik said organizers hope the ferry can provide a springboard toward establishing permanent ferry service.
HMS Ferries also has pitched creating a multi–route, four–dock year–round operation that would connect St. Petersburg, Tampa, southern Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base. In August, the Hillsborough County Commission voted to transfer the planning for that project to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.
Passengers on the ferry will hear about that proposal for a permanent service, Turanchik said.
“This is a great way for people to understand what water transportation can do for the Tampa Bay area,” he said. “We are using the waters of Tampa Bay to connect the people and places of Tampa Bay together. ... I hope people will embrace this vision.”
For tickets and information
Go to thecrossbayferry.com