Organizers behind a ferry service that will take commuters from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Petersburg provided more details on Wednesday about the service, beginning with giving it a formal title — “The Cross-Bay Ferry.”
At a news conference held at the offices of Schifino Lee Advertising and Branding in Tampa’s Hyde Park on Wednesday, officials involved with the service gave a timeline of when the ferry will begin operations this fall.
Weekend service (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) will begin for the public starting on November 4. Tickets will be available for sale starting on October 15, with the website (crossbayferry.com) going live shortly before that time.
“I think people are going to just be wowed by it,” gushed Ed Turanchik, the policy adviser for the project. Turanchik represents HMS Ferries, the private company that will be operating the ferry service. Although Turanchik has been working with HMS Ferries for years in attempting to get a ferry service that would take commuters who work at MacDill Air Force Base to South Hillsborough County for years, that project is currently on hold, with an environmental study taking place to find a terminal site in the Southeast part of the county.
“We’ve had great input from the governments, from the private sector, the tourism industry,” said Turanchik, referring to the literal buy-in from the four major governments in Tampa and St. Petersburg, as well as from the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Commissions. All of them have contributed $350,000 of taxpayers money to the project.
Leading the effort has been St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who calls the ferry “a fantastic example of regional collaboration to take on an important challenge — transportation — in a way that’s exciting to experience and pays homage to our maritime history. Importantly, this is a test project, and we need the community to support this if we want it to continue and expand.”
From November 3- November 18, community and business organizations will be invited to experience the ferry Mondays-Fridays in what is being described as a series of pre-scheduled “Test the Waters” excursions, and can do so by signing up through the website.
During Thanksgiving week, the public can ride the ferry for free. Regular weekday service will then begin on Monday, November 28.
Initial ticket prices will likely begin at $10 per one-way trip, with special discounts for regular commuters, and other prices offset by promotional partnerships. Passengers will be able to book their tickets online well in advance, or purchase any available seats as walk-ups at either dock.
Private sector support and participation in the project already is positive. “We’re already receiving very strong interest from corporate sponsors and advertisers, plus more than fifty restaurants, museums and attractions have already told us that want to partner with the ferry project,” Turanchik said.
Schifino Lee Advertising + Branding will be creating the website and taking care of all communications, so the public is aware of the ferry service. That will include newspaper advertising in the Tampa Bay Times (which is being donated), radio promotion and possible billboards and television ads.
“All of it is through partnerships,” said Schifino Lee principal Ben Lee. “There’s been an overwhelming cooperation with people trying to get on board, in terms of businesses, media sponsors as well as attractions and stakeholders,” he said, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, The chamber of commerces in both Tampa and St. Petersburg, and the tourist agencies, Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Pete-Clearwater.
The vessel is a catamaran design that measures 55-feet, accommodating up to 149 passengers for the roughly 50-minute voyage between the cities. At St. Petersburg ship will dock in the yacht basin along Bay Shore Drive NE. At Tampa, the vessel will dock next to the Tampa Convention Center.