This week, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Tampa, and Hillsborough County voted in favor of the Tampa Bay High Speed Ferry Project’s pilot program. The approved project will begin its six-month trial run in November, and commuter participation in the project will determine if ferries can be a viable method of travel between the bay area’s biggest cities — and, perhaps, reduce traffic accidents.
Connecting Downtown St. Petersburg and Downtown Tampa
The Tampa Bay High Speed Ferry Project was conceived as an alternate mode of transportation between the downtown areas of Tampa Bay’s largest cities, St. Petersburg and Tampa, which are often plagued with bumper-to-bumper bay area traffic.
St. Pete resident Angela Cieplevizz told ABC Action News that commute times are long.
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“There’s only one or two ways to get into Tampa,” she said.
This ferry will soon be another option for locals to consider when traveling between the two downtown areas, as The Tampa Bay High Speed Ferry will get travelers to their destination in under an hour by cutting across the bay. Officials hope this new mode of transportation will improve Tampa Bay’s long-term economic future. However, this project has the potential to do more than bring an economic boon to the Tampa Bay area; the ferry could also potentially lower the number of dangerous traffic accidents in the area as well, some say.
How the Ferry Could Reduce Traffic Accidents
The Tampa Bay High Speed Project hopes to cater to two groups of Tampa Bay locals: Those who want a quicker, alternative commute that avoids the busy roads on weekdays, and people looking to wine-and-dine responsibly in St. Pete and Tampa’s downtown area on the weekend.
The Tampa metro area has one of the highest rates of fatal car accidents in the country, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By reducing the heavy traffic that goes between St. Petersburg and Tampa, the ferry could potentially lower car accident injuries and deaths during commuter rush hour.
The ferry could also lower injuries and deaths that occur as a result of drunken driving — something that is prevalent in Hillsborough County. In Tampa, water taxis are often packed with people looking to bar-hop or sight-see along the Hillsborough River, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The ferry could fill a similar demand, for people who want to drink and dine downtown without risk.
Proposed Ferry Fares
However, the ability for the Tampa High Speed Project to lower accidents in the area largely depends on participation. For locals to use the ferry, they must find it cost effective. The exact fare of the ferry is still being determined, but community leaders predict it will be up to $20 roundtrip. While a higher fare may be worth it for those using the ferry as a safe way to get between the two cities for a night on the town, it might not be cost-effective for daily commuters.
Officials are debating a lower fare for commuters, potentially as low as $5 each way during typical commuting times. St. Pete City Council Member Darden Rice recommended a reduced fare for “frequent fliers,” such as commuters, to provide a greater incentive for commuters to ditch their cars and rely on the ferry to get to work. Otherwise, commuters may find their cars more cost effective, undermining the purpose of the ferry project.
The full extent of the ferry’s viability as an alternate mode of transportation will only be seen once the six-month pilot program is complete, but officials and locals alike hope the ferry can both help reduce traffic and accidents on the road and bring greater economic development to Tampa Bay.
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