Five months into a six-month pilot program, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the cross-bay ferry program is a success.
St. Petersburg, Tampa and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties foot the bill for the pilot program, which began sending ferries across the bay back in November. The pilot program’s goal was to test the waters for whether the area could sustainably support such a service.
“The numbers have been more robust than expected,” Kriseman told Pinellas County commissioners. “I think this pilot has been far better than expected. … There is a demand for ferry service in Tampa Bay.”
Close to 23,000 passengers have used the ferry, with February taking the top spot with 6,070 paid riders. November’s tally came in at more than 7,500 passengers, but that includes free rides.
Kriseman said the ferry service has already provided a $920,000 boost the local economy. Nearly 60 percent of riders said they spent between $15 and $40 after their ferry trip, while another 30 percent said they spent $100.
More than three-quarters of riders went out to eat after taking the ferry, while 25 percent said they went to a museum, 24 percent shopped and 11 percent went to a sporting event. About one in eight passengers said they took the ferry just for the ride.
City and county governments have spent $350,000 on the ferry service so far, but Kriseman said February’s ridership paid back about $54,000 of that sum.