Hillsborough is on board for its share of Cross Bay Ferry funding


By Janelle Irwin  – Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Jun 20, 2018, 2:27pm


Hillsborough County is all in for its share of the Cross Bay Ferry 2.0. The board voted unanimously Wednesday to support a $150,000 expenditure for a second round of ferry service beginning this November.

The service is meant to be an alternative transit solution for riders between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa. While it would only run seasonally, its success marks a key opportunity to attract state and federal dollars for other more permanent solutions.

“If they’re going to make that kind of investment, they want to see that it works,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said during a presentation at the Hillsborough County Commission meeting.

Kriseman touted statistics from the original service in late 2016 through April 2017 and asked the board for its support. To fund the service, four governments — Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, St. Pete and Tampa — would each need to contribute $150,000. The Florida Department of Transportation is committing $43,000 over three years.

Commissioner Sandra Murman said she already asked Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill to include $150,000 in the fiscal year 2019 budget, which takes effect in October. That budget still has to be approved.

“This is about really offering something to our citizens that’s not just in a car or an Uber,” Murman said. “It’s making use of our water. We don’t use our waterways.”




Murman has been backing another permanent ferry service connecting south Hillsborough County to MacDill Air Force Base. In an unrelated vote, the board also approved the next portion of that project, which will pave the way for budgeting and a timeline for completion. Kriseman wants to leverage the eventual service on nights and weekends for recreational transportation similar to what the Cross Bay Ferry offers.

“While that’s happening we think this gives us an opportunity — once your system is up and running we’ll already have a ridership that’s used to riding it … and will take advantage of it,” Kriseman said.

During its initial pilot, the Cross Bay Ferry exceeded ridership expectations with more than 40,000 rides and surpassed revenue expectations, leading each of the four partner governments to receive about $40,000 back on their $350,000 investments. Kriseman said he expects some of the $150,000 ask this time around to also be refunded once the seasonal service concludes.

Kriseman said a revenue study found the ferry led to $1.6 million in expenditures in Tampa and St. Pete, which is $300,000 more than the governments would contribute for its return.

Kriseman also said the ferry had a higher fare box ratio than bus service in Tampa Bay. Fares from the ferry represented 41 percent of its operating cost while bus tickets and other transit fares for the Pinellas and Hillsborough transit agencies only account for 28 percent of their budgets.

St. Pete City Council has agreed to fund its portion of the ferry cost. Pinellas County has not heard yet from Kriseman. Tampa City Council has yet to weigh in, though Mayor Bob Buckhorn has expressed reservations about spending money on the service when the city is facing 3 percent cuts to most of its departments to bridge a $13 million budget shortfall this year.