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tampa bay high speed ferry

post-skyway tampa bay crossing • pre-skyway: the bee line ferry
updated: 04.06.16 • archived: 11.01.23
this project failed to materialize.
after the skyway...
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11.06.14,, advocates for high-speed ferry announce new committee.
The high-speed ferry public/private project being spearheaded by former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik seemed to be going swimmingly over the past year — until objections about the site where the ferry terminal would be located in South Hillsborough County by some environmental groups led to Hillsborough County staffers searching feverishly for a new location.
According to Turanchik, they're not going to find one. The issue comes before the Board of County Commissioners next week where the plan before the BOCC will be tol extend the existing agreement to February 28, 2015.
To show that Turanchik isn't alone in his advocacy, a new group, called the Tampa Bay Citizens' Committee for High Speed Ferries has been formed. It's co-chaired by Kent Bailey with the Sierra Club, Keith Greminger, an urban planner and former chair of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, and Ken Roberts from the activist group Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation.
"We are Tampa Bay area residents," says a statement from the group. "We believe the Tampa Bay Ferry project is an exciting and unique way to connect us to where we live, work and play. Our mission is to get ferries up and running as soon as possible. Our goal is for ferries to be running by 2017!"
Among the groups listed as showing support for the high-speed ferry plan include a variety of local chambers of commerce, the Sierra Club, the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ybor City Redevelopment Corporation.
Although the initial phase of the plan would mostly be designed strictly for employees who work at MacDill Air Force Base to commute from South Hillsborough County, the concept has created excitement on both sides of Tampa Bay due to the fact that the concept would ultimately take passengers from Tampa to St. Petersburg.
The Sierra Club's Kent Bailey says that one reason the group was formed was to show the Commissioners that there is indeed grassroots support for the proposal.
The overall costs of the plan range over $20 million. The Board of County Commissioners has provided some seed money, as it were, but has not allocated many other funds for the project just yet. The board would not run the ferry rides, instead giving up control to HMS Ferries, a Washington state based business that runs similar ferry operations around the country.
Currently the plan for the South County terminal would be housed on the Fred and Idah Schultz preserve, but after objections were raised about the site in August by Audubon Florida, Commissioner Sandy Murman agreed, saying, "You shouldn’t be paving over pristine lands."
The board then backed Murman's proposal to have HMS Ferries begin searching for an alternative site. But Turanchik has flatly stated that the objections by Audubon have "no basis in fact." Turanchik told CL at the time that the agreement with the County Commission was to develop the Schultz property because that's the only site that will work.
Charles Lee, director of advocacy with Audubon Florida, objects to Turanchik's suggestion that the Schultz Preserve was proposed to be developed as a public park with an access road identical to that which would be needed for the ferry terminal and other significant facilities that would impact the restored habitat on the site.

03.04.15,, Environmental impact study of high-speed ferry underway.
Work has started on an environmental study to gauge the impact of a high-speed ferry port linking South County with Tampa.
The study comes on the heels of a nod of approval for the project from Hillsborough county commissioners last month to continue working with HMS Ferries South Swell Development Group. The companies propose building a ferry terminal at the Fred and Idah Schultz Preserve just north of Apollo Beach. Commissioners voted to continue studying the project for another year.
“We are ramping up the environmental study to select a preferred site,” said Ed Turanchik, a former county commissioner and a lawyer who represents the companies trying to bring the ferry to Tampa Bay. Turanchik now works for Akerman LLP, specializing in government affairs and public policy.
County officials will lead the environmental study. HNTB, a Tampa engineering and consulting firm, will also be involved.
The environmental study is expected to be complete within a year. Supporters then hope to have design, engineering and environmental permits by the following year, with construction starting in 2017 and the first ferry service in 2018.
The proposal begins with two catamarans that would run between the Schultz Preserve area and MacDill Air Force Base, with the first anticipated riders being among the 7,800 MacDill employees who commute between 25 and 35 miles daily from across the Bay.
The two catamarans would operate the six-mile straight-across service approximately every 20 minutes from 6 to 9 a.m. and again from 4 to 6 p.m. for MacDill employees. Service would expand as others signed on, Fernandez said.
A third catamaran would be added later for public use if the venture proves profitable, said Mark Fernandez of HMS Ferries Inc. in a public meeting at Hillsborough Community College last June. HMS Ferries also runs The Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz Tours ferries.
“It will be huge for South County’s military families and for taking people off the roads,” Turanchik said. “It is the least expensive transportation option because it moves so many people for so little money.”
The ferry’s travel time from Schultz Preserve to MacDill is estimated to take 13 minutes. The road trip by car can take 40 minutes.
“There are roughly 7,200 trips every morning and evening [from South County to MacDill], so we are going to take between 1,500 and 2,500 cars off those crowded roadways at [rush hour],” said Turanchik, citing Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization studies.
A 2012 feasibility study commissioned by the county studied various routes for a ferry and found a service linking the Apollo Beach/Gibsonton area and MacDill Air Force Base would be “the most promising route.”
Commissioner Sandra Murman, whose district includes much of South Shore, said the area has not “gotten its fair share of transportation dollars … and I have stood up for that at this board every single step of the way, trying to get more roads, buses, whatever we can put into South County.”
Vowing that “failure is not an option,” Murman, who has worked on the ferry project since its inception, said the county needs to have a thorough and fiscally responsible approach to the project. “We will not fail to bring transportation options to South County; we will not fail to bring a ferry to South County, but we’ve got to do it right.”
In this corner …
A rare coalition has backed the project, including the Tampa Bay Sierra Club and the powerful Tampa and St. Petersburg chambers of commerce.
“By removing 1,500 commuting cars from our road daily, the ferry project significantly reduces greenhouse gases,” said Kent Bailey, president of the Tampa Bay Sierra Club. “We are one of the nation’s most threatened communities due to sea level rise. The development of [a] public transportation system is critical in the reduction of carbon emissions and critical to our community’s future.”
The Sierra Club’s executive committee has voted twice in support of the project, the second time, last September, with specific reference to the Schultz site.
The project also calls for adding 46 acres of new environmental lands between the Schultz Preserve area and Golden Aster Scrub Preserve in Gibsonton, according to HMS Ferries.
This facility will also serve as a waterfront recreational park, according to the ferry firm, “providing outdoor enthusiasts with good public access to the Schultz Preserve as well as the ‘Kitchen,’ [a natural haven between Tampa Electric’s Big Bend power plant and Cargill’s phosphate plant]. An access roadway would be built along an existing service roadway and constructed roadway right-of-way, which will not impact the existing Preserve.”
Proposed recreational features include a half mile of beachfront on the Kitchen; fishing, kayak and canoe launches; and a bike-share facility. A concession area and restrooms would also be provided.
… and that corner
While the ferry has a diverse group of supporters and backing in Washington, D.C. — the project won a $4.8 million federal grant last year — hurdles still remain, including, among others, approval from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.
Port Tampa Bay also raised concerns last month that the proposed ferry would interfere with other vessels already using Bay waters. The Audubon Society of Florida has also opposed placing the terminal on the Preserve, citing environmental worries.
Ferry Q & A
Q. When would the MacDill Ferry operate?
A. Vessels would run regularly between South County and MacDill Air Force Base during the morning and evening rush hours. The service would operate on all working days, but not federal holidays or weekends.
Q. Would there be parking at the terminal?
A. Yes, the proposed Schultz Ferry Park would be able to accommodate at least 1,200 parking spaces. The parking area would be fenced, lighted and have security.
Q. Who would use the MacDill Ferry Service?
A. There are more than 7,800 families living in the area around the proposed terminal who have a MacDill employee in their household. They commute between 45 and 70 miles each day, taking 1.5 to 2 hours each day. The ferry service would reduce travel time by as much as 30 minutes per day, as well as cut costs, while increasing the quality and productivity of the commute.
Q. How much would the MacDill commuter service cost?
A. Federal employees receive a monthly transit benefit that can be applied to ferry transit services. At present, this benefit would cover the anticipated cost of the fare, so the trip would be no additional cost for those federal employees. It is estimated that a household that used this service would save between $3,200 and $6,300 each year in economic costs associated with operating a car.
Q. Could non-employees use the MacDill HSF Commuter?
A. Yes, but their entrance onto the base would be governed by existing security regulations, restrictions and procedures. All passengers would have to go through MacDill’s security. They would also be required to pay for a daily pass, the amount that would be established before starting service.

06.04.15,, Castor can't wait to spend tax money on cute ferry project.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) sent the attached letter today to the Hillsborough County Commission, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, Hillsborough County MPO Executive Director Beth Alden, Port Tampa Bay Authority Board, Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson urging them to move forward on the region’s high-speed ferry project.
Ferry service would benefit the personnel at MacDill Air Force Base, who are experiencing significant delays in entering the base and would execute the substantial federal grant dollars made available to Hillsborough County for ferry service.
U.S. Rep. Castor led in securing federal funding for the original feasibility study in 2009. She also helped to secure a grant towards capital costs in 2014 but this funding has been unspent, which could threaten Tampa Bay’s ability to secure future funding to further improve and increase transportation options.
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   while having transportation alternatives are a good thing, we hardly expect the taxpayers to be saddled with yet another corporate business funneling taxpayer money to squander on yet another boondoggle.
   why would anyone drive from their home, park in the ferry parking lot (free? pay?), pay some unknown (reasonable? excessive?) fare, wait to board the ferry, wait to depart, arrive at some port, wait to get off, wait and pay for some form of transportation to their final destination, perhaps transfer to another service if the first doesn't get you to your destination straight away, and then repeat the process in reverse, later that day?
   sure, people may ride the thing, but more so because it's new and they want to check it out. once it becomes apparent it's not worth the expense/hassle, it will either get a bailout and eventually close or shut down straight away. either way, expect a plethora of predictably asinine excuses as to why it failed, none of which admitting it was a bad idea to begin with.
   there are too many other infrastructural priorities that need financial attention beforehand. people will be hard pressed to abandon their preferred mode of travel, their car, in favor of what appears to be an expensive hassle, with the possibility of being stranded, if any part of the commute chain gets broken or bogged down.
   these ferries are great as an alternative travel method, such as shooting down to key west and other destinations up and down the coast, not hoping back and forth across tampa bay.
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