Cross-Bay Ferry: Is it faster than driving? 8 On Your Side tested it out

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — The new Cross-Bay Ferry is great for a leisurely commute between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa, and it’s also being touted as an alternative to crossing the Howard Frankland Bridge during rush hour.

But does it actually save passengers time? And who would benefit from it? News Channel 8 traffic reporter Leslee Lacey compared the two commutes.

Leslee began by timing the ferry commute from Downtown Tampa. She parked at the Silver Lot, which is $5 all day when there is not an event at the Amalie Arena. It took just over four minutes to walk to, and board the ferry.

“The ride was very smooth, windy and relaxing. It’s air conditioned with plush airline type seats inside. It does not have WiFi but with a cell phone hot spot, passengers can get a little work done. You can also have snacks and beverages, including alcohol,” said Leslee.

For $1 you can board your bicycle to help reduce your commute. Total time from the Silver Lot to hitting ground in Downtown St Pete was 55 minutes.

Then, Leslee drove across the Howard Frankland Bridge beginning at the News Channel 8 parking lot, since it’s also in downtown Tampa. From there, to the ferry parking lot in St. Pete took 33 minutes. Note that traffic is typically good on I-275 heading south in the mornings from downtown Tampa into Pinellas County.

When Leslee tested the opposite direction, it was very different.

“For the northbound bound commute during the 7 a.m. hour, I used data, travel times and driving,” she said. It took 64 minutes from the ferry parking lot to the Silver Lot. “I included interstate travel, surface street travel and parking,” she said.

“My consensus was during my selective travels, I found a morning NB commute on 275 between downtown St Pete and downtown Tampa, slightly longer than a ferry commute. This was with no crashes present. The ferry could be a viable commute specifically for those who live in downtown St Pete and work in downtown Tampa. However, it was much quicker when driving southbound, the opposite direction, since the morning traffic pattern is light into St Pete.”

Obviously there are many factors to keep in mind regarding this test. Consider the time it would take to walk or bus to your office after disembarking the ferry. Also, the ferry schedule was created to accommodate people working in downtown Tampa. Traveling the other direction is not conducive to typical work hours. And consider adding travel time to the St. Pete ferry dock. Each person will have a unique commute. One good note is the parking is free on the St. Pete side for the six month trail period.

The ferry cost $10 each way for adults. However, there will eventually be discounted rates for regular travelers. On November 28th the Cross Bay Ferry will begin the seven day schedule.

Every third Sunday will be free, so it’s a good time to test out this new service. For the week of Thanksgiving, there will be free ride days Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Get tickets and find out more here.

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