1. News

Survey says: Cross-Bay Ferry riders support year-round, regional service

Colt Caywood, 36, of St. Petersburg, stands at the back of the line in February as Cross-Bay Ferry ticket holders get ready to board in St. Petersburg. More than 3,000 riders filled out a customer survey after the ferry season ended and gave the service a positive rating. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
Colt Caywood, 36, of St. Petersburg, stands at the back of the line in February as Cross-Bay Ferry ticket holders get ready to board in St. Petersburg. More than 3,000 riders filled out a customer survey after the ferry season ended and gave the service a positive rating. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published May 14, 2019

A survey of people who rode the Cross-Bay Ferry between downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg this year found strong interest in a year-round ferry service connecting multiple points in Tampa Bay.

More than 3,000 passengers completed the 21-question survey that was sent out to riders last week. The ferry's second season ended April 30, and ridership totaled more than 52,000 trips — far surpassing the 2017 pilot season.

Survey results were shared Monday with the local governments that helped pay for the six-month seasonal boat service.

That gives Hillsborough County Commissioners a couple days to review the results before they hear a presentation scheduled for Wednesday about bringing permanent ferry service to the bay area.

Former Tampa mayoral candidate and lawyer Ed Turanchik first unveiled the proposal last month on behalf of his client, HMS Ferry Inc., which runs the Cross-Bay Ferry and hopes to run the new service as well. The project would cost the county $36.5 million to get the service up and running and use four boats to provide seven-day service around Tampa Bay.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Partners propose seven-day ferry service linking Hillsborough, MacDill, Tampa, St. Pete

More than 70 percent of respondents said that creating a permanent regional ferry system is very important to them.

The survey described a scenario similar to the proposed business plan commissioners will review Wednesday: ferries running every 30 to 60 minutes during the rush-hour traffic window, then boats running every hour or two during evenings and weekends.

The docks would include the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa along with South Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base. The survey has one feature that the proposed business plan doesn't: a dock in the Westshore/Tampa International Airport area (the details of exactly where this dock would go were not revealed.)

The existing route linking Tampa and St. Petersburg remained the most popular option, with more than 73 percent of respondents, about 2,100, saying they would use it periodically on nights and weekends for games, events and other travel. The theoretical route between St. Petersburg and Westshore was the second most popular choice, followed by a boat linking St. Petersburg and South Hillsborough County.

"It's exciting to see affirmed what most of us already knew: that the Cross Bay Ferry is a popular way to utilize our common waterway for transportation," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, a leading ferry advocate, in a statement. "I want to thank the Hillsborough County Commission for their consideration and thoughtful discussion of proposed ferry service in Tampa Bay."


Cross-Bay Ferry wraps up its season today, but looks to return in big way

A new focus on weekend trips has passengers flocking to the Cross-Bay Ferry

The survey results were largely positive, with 96 percent of riders rating their experience as either excellent or very good.

"When one of the chief complaints is they ran out of red wine," Turanchik said, "you know you're doing something right."

Most riders — 60 percent — said they visited the other city because the ferry made it more convenient to do so. The remaining 40 percent said they would have made the trip any way, but decided to take the boat rather than drive.

Once they arrived in the other city, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they spent at least $25 per person at each destination, with about 30-percent spending more than $40 each.

"People are taking a ferry instead of the bridges and they're spending a lot of money in both cities," Turanchik said. "It's pretty powerful stuff in terms of what you want to get out of a premium transit project."

A majority of riders dined out, while a third visited a museum or cultural attraction and a fifth used the ferry to attend a sporting event.

Kriseman is hoping to keep seasonal service running November through April until a year-round service could start in 2022. Under that plan, two companies, HMS Ferries Inc. and South Swell Development Corp., would pay more than $100 million to operate and maintain the four boats for 20 years.

Unlike the seasonal Cross-Bay Ferry service, the year-round ferry project would require no taxpayer money for ferry operations and maintenance. State and federal grants could help defray the cost of the boats, docks, offices and other capital items.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.


  1. Addison Davis, the superintendent of Clay County District Schools, was chosen Tuesday as the new Hillsborough County school superintendent. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The School Board’s vote is unanimous for Davis, who calls himself “an accelerator.”
  2. Smoke from the Levy County controlled burn travelled across three counties in order to reach Hillsborough. []
    Commuters saw the smokey, hazy skies as they drove home. Strong southern winds are carrying the smoke from a prescribed fire in Levy County.
  3. In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, booking photo provided by the Orange County Sheriff's office is Mason Toney. Toney, 28, was charged with first-degree murder for the killing of his boss, William Knight, on Monday, according to an arrest affidavit from the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Co-workers told investigators that Toney and Knight were friends outside of work despite their political differences. (Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP) [AP]
    Mason Toney, 28, was charged with first-degree murder for the killing of William Knight on Monday, according to an arrest affidavit from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
  4. Joseph Hernandez Hall is home to the University of Florida's chemistry department, where a faculty member recently resigned after officials discovered he failed to disclose his strong ties to China. While at UF, the faculty member also held positions at two Chinese universities, including vice president and dean. The faculty member was not named in a report obtained Tuesday from the Florida Legislature. [University of Florida]
    They also collected grant money from the U.S. government while never disclosing their outside work in China.
  5. Margaret Pruitt, today’s exercise model, is a real wonder woman.
  6. In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File) [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
    But this year’s bill may provoke fewer fireworks than the bitter debates seen in the past two sessions.
  7. The four candidates for Clearwater mayor in 2020. Clockwise from the top left: Frank Hibbard, Morton Myers, Bill Jonson and Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer. [[Frank Hibbard (Courtesy of Hibbard); Morton Myers [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Bill Jonson [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer; (Courtesy of Drayer)]
    We might learn a great deal about a key election in Tampa Bay.
  8. Rep. Anthony Sabatini presents his bill to create school board term limits to the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Jan. 21, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    The idea would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber before it could appear on the ballot.
  9. Muhammad Abdur-Rahim points out the location of a former African American cemetery in the old Clearwater Heights neighborhood, where he grew up. Archaeologists have begun surveying the land using ground penetrating radar. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
    Marked graves were moved in the 1950s, records show. But unmarked graves may have been left behind.
  10. Deputies and the sheriff of Grayson County, Va., shared photos on their official Facebook from Monday's second-amendment rally in Richmond, Va. [Grayson County Sheriff's Office]
    In a viral video on Twitter, Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan calls proposed legislation ‘unconstitutional.’