The Edward Rowe Snow arriving at Long Wharf on the F4 route
|Transit type||Passenger ferry|
|Operator||Boston Harbor Cruises (under contract to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority)|
|No. of lines||3 MBTA-funded routes|
1 locally funded route
|No. of terminals||8|
|Daily ridership||4,464 (2013)|
The MBTA Boat system is a public boat service providing water transportation in the Greater Boston area via Boston Harbor. Both inner harbor and longer distance commuter ferries are operated. The services are operated by Boston Harbor Cruises under contract to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Current service runs from two wharves on the Boston waterfront to the Boston Navy Yard, Logan Airport, Hewitt's Cove in Hingham, and Pemberton Point in Hull. Two additional seasonal routes, not funded by the MBTA but included on some MBTA documents, run from Boston to Lynn and Salem.
In fiscal year 2013, the MBTA-funded portion of the system carried 4,464 passengers per weekday, accounting for 0.32% of total fixed-route MBTA ridership.
Inner Harbor Ferry
- F4 Boston (Long Wharf) - Charlestown Navy Yard service runs year-round on weekdays with ferries operating on 15-minute headways at rush hour and 30-minute headways at other times, and on a reduced schedule on weekends. The fare is $3.50; Zone 1A passes on CharlieCards are accepted.
Two additional routes - the F3 Lovejoy Wharf - Boston Navy Yard and F5 Lovejoy Wharf - World Trade Center via Moakley Courthouse - began operation in 1997 during Big Dig construction. They were discontinued on January 21, 2005 due to low ridership. The F5X Lovejoy Wharf - World Trade Center Express route was not funded by the MBTA and was run until February 24, 2006.
Ferry service to East Boston began in the 1830s as a connection to the Eastern Railroad, and ferries ran until 1952. Service ran from a wharf at Lewis Street to Long Wharf from 1995 to 1997; it was discontinued due to extremely low ridership as the Blue Line provided a faster and more frequent service along the same corridor.
In 2011, then-mayor Thomas Menino proposed ferry service between East Boston and Fan Pier on the South Boston Waterfront, a route without current direct transit service. In August 2012, the Federal Highway Administration awarded $1.28 million to the city for the purchase of two boats. In September 2012, the Boston Redevelopment Authority accepted the grant and agreed to rehabilitate the East Boston Marine Terminal for the ferries, which were then expected to begin operation in 2013. In August 2014, the MBTA opened bidding for providing the two boats for East Boston service. Bidding is expected to close on September 10, 2014. [needs update]
- F1 Boston (Rowes Wharf) - Hingham service runs year-round on weekdays only. The single-ride fare is $9.25; MBTA Commuter Rail passes from Zone 5 and above are accepted. Ferry service to Hingham began in 1975; the service was initiated by Ed King, then director of the Massachusetts Port Authority.
- F2 Boston (Long Wharf) - Hingham and Hull via Logan Airport service runs year-round on weekdays and weekend service during the summer. Weekend summer service, last operated in 1998 and 1999, was introduced on May 24, 2014. Not all trips stop at Logan or Hingham; some also stop at Grape Island and Georges Island. The fare is $9.25 from Hingham and Hull to Boston (with Zone 5 or above passes accepted); higher fares are charged to Logan Airport from all terminals.
Previously, F2 service operated directly to the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, with trips serving Hull designated F2H. Quincy service was temporarily discontinued on October 14, 2013, with boats redirected to Hingham, when a water main break added to existing structural problems with the sea wall at the Quincy wharf. In January 2014, the MBTA made the closure (and increased Hingham service) permanent after it was determined that repairs would cost $15 million for five years of additional service, or $50 million for 50 years. The damage also forced the closure of the USS Salem museum. In July 2014, a neighboring shipyard purchased the Quincy site from the MBTA. The Salem was to be moved to East Boston in 2015; however, in February 2016 it was determined that it would stay in Quincy and eventually reopen.
The Hingham Intermodal Center was opened in January 2017, providing a larger waiting area and ticketing facilities. On January 2, 2018, ferry service to Hingham was indefinitely suspended due to ice damage to the dock during severe cold the previous week. Service resumed on January 15 after repairs to the dock.
Two summer-only routes to the North Shore operated by Boston Harbor Cruises are not funded by the MBTA but are included on MBTA maps:
- Salem Fast Ferry - Operates from Salem Ferry Terminal to Long Wharf. Service began on June 22, 2006, and currently runs with five round trips on weekdays and weekends. The service is funded by the city of Salem. Fares are $8 for commuters and $17 for others; MBTA passes are not accepted.
- Lynn Ferry - operates from Lynn Ferry Terminal to Central Wharf. Service began on May 19, 2014 with three weekday round trips, as a two-year pilot program funded by the state. Fares were $3.50; MBTA Commuter Rail passes from Zone 2 or above were accepted for fares. Although the state spent $8.5 million on the terminal and $4.5 million in federal funds was secured for a larger ferry, the service was not run in summer 2016 due to lack of $700,000 in operations funding. Service resumed for June—September 2017 with funding from MassDOT, with one daily round trip timed for commuting. Fares were doubled to $7, and MBTA passes were not accepted. Due to low ridership in 2017 - just 30 daily passengers - the service was not resumed in 2018.
All MBTA-funded services are operated by Boston Harbor Cruises under contract to the MBTA. The Salem route is also operated by Boston Harbor Cruises, but under contract to the town.
Until 2017, the MBTA owned two ferries, the Lightning and the Flying Cloud, both built in 1996. They were joined in October 2017 by the new catamaran Champion (named for Champion of the Seas), and a fourth boat will be added in late 2017.
Finances and averted cuts
MBTA Boat services have the highest farebox recovery ratio of any MBTA service type, at 55% by a 2012 report. However, the service still operates at a $5 million annual loss to the MBTA and carries a relatively small percentage of passengers, which has resulted in calls for its discontinuance or modification. In 2012, facing a substantial budget gap, the MBTA proposed substantial service cuts and fare increases. All ferry routes were to be cut, resulting in $3.7 million savings for the agency. Temporary measures were found to avoid some service cuts including the ferries; however, weekend Quincy service was eliminated and fares raised 35% in an attempt to eliminate the subsidy required. State lawmakers also then proposed that Massport take over the ferries from the MBTA.
- "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
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- "The Penny Ferry". Eastboston.com. 1996. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
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- Anand, Geeta (18 November 1996). "Despite push, few take E. Boston ferry: Ridership falls at subsidized service as councilor reaffirms her support". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014 – via Highbeam Research.
- Flint, Anthony (3 January 1998). "MODICA MOVING ON AS EAST BOSTON BEGINS MOVE UP: DEFEATED COUNCILOR LOOKS TO THE FUTURE". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014 – via Highbeam Research.
- Fox, Jeremy C. (7 August 2012). "Federal grant for two boats will help bring new ferry service to East Boston, Charlestown, South Boston". Boston Globe. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
- "BRA approves ferry plan to connect East Boston, Charlestown, South Boston". Boston Globe. 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
- "Invitation for Bids / Request for Proposal Process Flow". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
- Berwick, Martha A.R. (November 17, 2005). "Hingham ferry has key role as transit hub". Boston Globe.
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- Ronan, Patrick (25 January 2014). "Quincy's ferry service, USS Salem museum closed indefinitely". Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- Ronan, Patrick (28 July 2014). "Quincy ferry terminal sale final; USS Salem to leave in 2015". Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- Ronan, Patrick (23 February 2016). "USS Salem is staying in Quincy, ship's owner says". Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Lambert, Lane (December 27, 2016). "Hingham's new $7 million ferry terminal to open next month". Patriot Ledger. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
- "Service Alerts and Notices: Ferry". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 3, 2018. Archived from the original on January 4, 2018.
- Takahama, Elise (January 12, 2018). "Hingham Ferry Dock to reopen Monday". Boston Globe.
- "Salem has one ferry and a boatload of names". Salem News. 22 June 2006. Archived from the original on 6 August 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- "Salem Ferry's Maiden Voyage to Take Place on Thursday, June 22nd" (Press release). City of Salem. 22 June 2006. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- Rosenberg, Steven A. (5 June 2014). "Lynn hopes ferry boosts waterfront". Boston Globe. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- Grillo, Thomas (13 June 2016). "State Throws Cold Water on Ferry Commuters". Item Live. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
- "Lynn-Boston Summer Ferry Service to be Offered" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. June 9, 2017.
- "Baker Says No to Ferry". Lynn Daily Item. May 10, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
- Jessen, Klark (October 18, 2017). "Champion Officially Joins MBTA Ferry Fleet" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
- "Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)" (PDF). National Transit Database. United States Federal Transit Administration. 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- "MBTA Fare and Service Changes: Join the discussion" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Moskowitz, Erik (28 March 2014). "Cash-strapped T proposes 23 percent fare increase". Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Moskowitz, Erik (11 May 2014). "Massport takeover of ferry service urged: Lawmakers also propose plan for cash-strapped T". Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
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