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Cross Bay Ferry continues to shatter ridership records

Sunday ridership is up nearly 400%.

The Cross Bay Ferry continues to grow its ridership in its third year of service. Ridership so far this year is up 36% over last year.

HMS Ferries, the Cross Bay Ferry operator, compared ridership numbers from the first two months of service last season to the first two months of service this season.

Sunday ridership, they found, is up 385% over last season.

December ridership was 50% higher than the previous year.

“We are off to an exceptional third season,” said Matt Miller, President of HMS Ferries, Inc. “The move back to the Tampa Convention Center has been huge, and we continue to see ridership gains on all other service days.”

The numbers put the Cross-Bay Ferry on pace to exceed last year’s record of nearly 53,000 riders.

In all, the ferry carried 22,510 riders in November and December of 2019 compared to just 16,566 the previous year.

“I want to thank everyone who has ridden the Cross-Bay Ferry, and I especially want to thank our partner governments who have made it possible. With ridership outpacing previous seasons, I believe the ferry is now an integral part of our transportation culture here in the Tampa Bay region. I am looking forward to riding the ferry for years to come,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman who has long been a champion for the service.

HMS Ferries credits its increase to moving the ferry dock on the Tampa side of its service. During its second season, the ferry docked near the Florida Aquarium. This year the dock moved to the Tampa Convention Center, which allows the ferry to operate with fewer conflicts from cruise ships.

The ferry was able to begin service earlier in the day and add a third round trip option on Sundays. That led to nearly quadrupling Sunday service from 1,604 passengers in November and December of 2018 to 6,172 during the final two months of 2019.

“The Cross-Bay Ferry is a great addition to the region that allows riders to enjoy both sides of the bay. Not only does it better connect our great cities, but it allows locals and visitors to enjoy one of the greatest things about Florida — our waterfront,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said. “By embracing more mobility options to connect our region, we can meet transportation demands while improving the quality of life for residents across Tampa Bay. We look forward to looking at ways we can make this, and many other projects, a permanent commuter option.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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