We recently caught up with Dr. Judy Genshaft, former USF President, and she shared her excitement for the upcoming Local Leaders Luncheon on September 10th, 2019 at the Tampa River Center. Click below to watch her video and to secure your spot today!
Register for the Local Leader’s Luncheon here.
Residents and tourists should once again be able to ride a ferry between the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg now that three participating governments have signed off on the two-year project.
Hillsborough County Commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to contribute nearly $300,000 over the next two years to help operate the Cross-Bay Ferry through 2021. St. Petersburg and Pinellas politicians have already approved their shares. Tampa City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday.
The ferry, which first launched in 2016, runs seasonally, November through April. With its on-board bar, 50-minute travel time and sweeping views of Tampa Bay, the newest transportation mode quickly gained traction with both locals and visitors.
Fans sporting Tampa Bay Lightning jerseys were often spotted lining up outside the St. Petersburg dock on game nights last season. Across the bay, trips from Tampa sold out as people snatched up tickets to visit shops and restaurants along Beach Drive and Central Avenue.
Those tickets added up. Passengers took nearly 41,000 trips during the pilot season.
The ferry took a year off before coming back in 2018 with a new focus on nights and weekends, along with a lower ticket price of $8. Ridership jumped to about 52,500 trips with the new schedule and cost.
“The return on investment is incredible…This is a small amount of money for the number of riders,” Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman said Wednesday. “And the use of our water, I can’t say enough…I think we’re committed for the long term.”
Weekend sailings frequently sold out, but the boat was also known to sail nearly empty.
The ferry continues to see most of its success on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. More than 18,500 tickets were sold on weekends in November, December and January last season. Weekdays were much slower, with the boat sometimes sailing with a handful of people or less.
Trips with just 15 passengers or less accounted for about a quarter of the departures during the first half of the season. That’s 10 percent or less of capacity, and happened most often on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. A handful of times, it sailed with just one or two passengers on board.
Data from the pilot year showed people weren’t interested in taking the boat to and from work. The updated schedule caters to weekend events, sports games, date nights and other entertainment options.
The Florida Department of Transportation previously awarded a $438,000 grant that will be spread out over three years. The state money, along with a new contract with HMS Ferries, dropped the local contribution significantly from the first year’s cost of $350,000 per government.
HMS Ferries is also pitching a multi-route, four-dock year-round operation that would connect St. Petersburg, Tampa, South Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base. Hillsborough County Commissioners voted earlier this month to transfer the planning for that project to the county’s transit agency. Its future is unknown.
Mayor Kriseman repeated his interest Wednesday in having multiple boats running the St. Petersburg to Tampa route to allow for more frequent trips.
“We’ve seen the growth in ridership, we’re having a good economic impact…and we’re getting ridership on both sides, but also now we’re starting to get riders outside of the Tampa Bay area, which is great,” Kriseman said. “The biggest problem we have, honestly, is that people complain it’s sold out and they can’t get on it.”
“It’s a good problem,” he said, “but I look forward to the day when we don’t have just one boat, but we have multiples.”
The boat is scheduled this fall to return to its original Hillsborough location at the Tampa Convention Center. That change will allow the ferry to run more often on Sundays, now that they boat will no longer be competing against cruise ship sailings.
Kriseman is hoping the St. Petersburg dock will move to the city’s new pier, which is currently under construction, for the 2020-2021 season.
“Especially with the new pier district opening, I think there’s going to be a lot more people down there visiting the pier than we’ve ever had,” Kriseman said. “Having an easier way of getting directly to the pier district is going to be fantastic.”
“Ferry connecting Downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg poised to come back for two seasons” – Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)
Hillsborough County’s mass transit agency performed a valuable service by agreeing to fund the free downtown Tampa shuttles until at least March. That gives the agency time to explore more efficient ways of moving short-hop commuters through the busy city center.
The Downtowner operates similarly to Uber and Lyft, allowing people to use an app to hail a ride on the electric vehicles. While the trips must start and end within the downtown area, the service has become wildly popular, with people taking the shuttles to lunch, on errands or to nearby meetings.
But the Tampa Downtown Partnership, which created the service, said it cannot continue. As the Tampa Bay Times’ Caitlin Johnston reported, the partnership asked the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority to take over the cost, with help from the Florida Department of Transportation. The HART board on Monday approved the $568,000 expenditure for eight months of service and hopes to develop a more sustainable concept. A new business model could include creating fixed pick-up and drop-off locations. Point-to-point service might involve a fee.
Keeping the service alive while exploring efficiencies benefits riders and downtown enterprises alike. And with the most popular drop-off locations being major destinations — from the Bayshore Publix and HART’s transit hub to the University of Tampa — an opportunity exists for HART to develop a focused circulator service. This is a worthwhile investment in a city center that’s become a bustling neighborhood.
“A sensible Tampa transit option” – Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)
Your Downtown Calendar
The following is just a sample of upcoming events in Downtown Tampa. Visit the Downtown Tampa Events Calendar for a more comprehensive list.
Summer of Rum Festival
Saturday, August 31, Noon to 11pm
Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park
Listen to live music while enjoying a variety of rum drinks from featured bars! Grub on food from the Caribbean Food Market, shop at a number of curated vendors, sip on over 40 rums from the Island Rum Tasting Party, and end the night with an amazing fireworks display. This year’s live performance list features Sublime with Rome, The Expendables, and Inner Circle. For more information, go to Summer of Rum Festival.
Chris Brown: INDIGOAT Tour
Saturday, August 31, begins 6:30pm
Global music icon, world-class entertainer, and Grammy Award winner Chris Brown is making a tour stop in Downtown Tampa, and he’s bringing some of the hottest names in hip-hop, including Tory Lanez, Ty Dolla $ign, Joyner Lucas, and Yella Beezy. Brown is ready to wow the crowd with a fresh, high-energy show complete with his signature dance skills and strong vocals, as well as new music. For more information, go to Chris Brown: INDIGOAT Tour.
Labor Day Luau
Sunday, September 1, 6pm to 10pm
The Florida Aquarium
Grab the whole family and celebrate Labor Day Weekend with The Florida Aquarium’s unofficial end of the summer luau. Whether you’re looking for some family fun or a night out with friends, you’ll have a fantastic time with the 14,000 animals that call the Aquarium home. The Aquarium will re-open to give guests an after-hours look at the animals and attractions. Order some food and drinks, listen to a live DJ and steel band, and check out all your favorite sea life. Dig out your Hawaiian shirt and clam diggers, put on a lei and hula skirt, and get ready for a luau bash! For more info, go to Labor Day Luau.
On the Marquee at Tampa Theatre
David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019) – Through Wednesday, September 4
Enter The Dragon (1973) – Friday, August 30, 10:30pm to 12:15am
Casablanca (1942) – Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1
Taking the Stage at the Straz Center
VetArtSpan Showcase – Friday, August 30, begins 7pm
2019 Tampa Bay Theatre Festival – Fighting God – Friday, August 30, begins 7:30pm
Monday Morning Memo –Monday Morning Memo is a weekly update of “insider downtown information” regarding developments, transportation, special opportunities and other useful information to help you make the most of downtown. Subscribe to receive this weekly newsletter.
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