Special Recognition: North Station Seaport Ferry

NORTH STATION SEAPORT FERRY

by Erin Anderson

PROBLEM STATEMENT 

The Seaport District has in the last two decades been one of Boston’s fastest growing neighborhoods. However, development has generated an acute need for more transportation. In the South Boston Waterfront Sustainable Transportation Plan (“the Plan”), released in 2015, access to the Seaport District from North Station was highlighted as a critical need. Several large employers in the area have in the past attempted to address the issue by providing shuttle-bus service for employees, but the cost was prohibitive and led to increased traffic. One solution was to consolidate employer-operated shuttle service between North Station and the Seaport District, which was done in 2015, operated by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA). However, the Plan also set a long-term goal to transition from shuttle buses to ferry service on the underutilized Boston Harbor. 

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A 2017 study funded by MassDOT and DEP analyzed potential dock locations and route options to operate a ferry between Lovejoy Wharf at North Station and Fan Pier in the Seaport District.  A subsequent business and implementation plan was funded by A Better City, Fan Pier Owners Corporation, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, WS Development, the Seaport TMA, Skanska, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Fidelity, and John Hancock. The result—the Seaport Ferry—is a public-private partnership: companies cover service costs while administrative and operational responsibilities are managed by the MCCA. 

Analysis included two options for service: a two vessel option with ferries running every 20 minutes and a bus at alternating 20-minute intervals for an overall service frequency of every 10 minutes, and a three-vessel option running every 15 minutes. Both would operate between 6am–9am and 3:30pm–7pm.2 Ultimately, based on the bids received and feedback from the funding companies, the two-vessel option was selected, but the alternating service with the shuttle was removed from the plan. The fees charged to participating companies are based on percentage of ridership. During shuttle-bus service, riders were allowed on by showing their corporate ID and ridership was tracked by what stop in the Seaport riders were using, as most of the larger companies had dedicated drop-off locations. Since ferry service has a single stop, it is necessary to establish which riders are coming from the respective companies via a mobile-app for ticketing. 

Ferry service began in January for corporate employees and opened to the general public in February, which had been part of the plan from the outset. The ferry costs $5 for the public to ride. The final cost of the winning bid was $2,275,380, which included start-up costs for the boats, website, app for riders, and staffing and administrative costs incurred by the MCCA. By taking individual companies’ shuttles off the road, the ferry reduces traffic congestion and mitigates the impact of air pollution. For riders, the service provides a comfortable, reliable trip of just 14 minutes from North Station to the Seaport District. If participating companies continue the service, next steps will include recruiting new companies to increase ridership and, in turn, decrease member fees, and potentially integrating the Seaport Ferry’s payment system with the MBTA to allow commuters to travel seamlessly between the two modes. 

2019 Better Government Comp… by Pioneer Institute on Scribd

REFERENCES 

  1. Fan Pier was ultimately chosen due to its central location and, because the dock there is owned by one of the participating companies, it did not require fees. 
  2. “Lovejoy Wharf to South Boston Waterfront Ferry Alternatives Analysis” 2017

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