Studies Underway For Proposed Tampa Bay Ferry

What if Tampa, like Seattle, had ferry service across its waterway?

That's what officials from the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) are wondering. They've hired Jacobs Engineering and Cambridge Systematics to conduct preliminary studies to explore the possibility of a circular ferry route across Tampa Bay.

"It's a feasibility study to see if water transit is something we could pursue," explains Randy Kranjec of the Hillsborough County MPO . "Consultants will come back after this first phase to determine whether water transit is viable."

According to Cambridge Systematics' Michael Williamson, initial stakeholder input suggests a water ferry service would be a viable option for commuting purposes as well as recreational and tourism-related activities. A connection between downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg is one of the more favorable routes.. Factors still to be considered include water depth, speed restrictions and vessel characteristics (capacity, speed, amenities). Other connections being considered include Westshore, MacDill AFB, Safety Harbor/Oldsmar, Fort DeSoto and Gibsonton/Apollo Beach.

The idea for ferry service has been debated for several years and is included in the Master Plan developed by the Tampa Bay  Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA). Investigations began as early as 2003. In 2008 Hillsborough County received federal funds to conduct a feasibility study and later that year the Urban Charrette hosted a Design Charrette on behalf of the Tampa Downtown Partnership that explored the logistics of water taxi service across Tampa Bay.

According to Williamson, next steps will focus on estimating potential ridership demand for select routes, further consideration of station locations and vessel technologies, and development of findings and recommendations to guide the next phase.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Randy Kranjec, Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization; Michael Williamson, Cambridge Systematics
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