Council OKs extending free fares for TheBoat
Fares for TheBoat and connecting bus shuttles will be free next week in a promotional offer intended to encourage more riders to catch the city's new commuter ferry, with ridership numbers falling well below capacity since its launch Monday.
The City Council approved the fare suspension yesterday and required the city Department of Transportation Services to report back on ridership data in two months and whether there can be added routes or services in the future.
"We want people to try it out and see if it's something they'll use on a regular basis," said Darin Mar, project manager for TheBoat.
City officials say it is too early to analyze ridership numbers. On Monday there were 233 riders on the four morning and afternoon trips with many of them being city officials or media. Tuesday had 207; Wednesday had 88 in the two morning rides. The ferry can hold as many as 149 passengers.
"Normally what I'd expect is the first month to be the settling-in period," Mar said. "After about three months of operation, we would probably have more on what the thoughts of ridership are."
The one-year pilot program is costing the city $5 million to operate in addition to $1 million for the creation of new bus shuttles that connect the piers to surrounding areas. The city received $5 million in federal grants.
"I think it's too early to say it's going to cost too much and we shouldn't do it," said Mayor Mufi Hannemann. "People are crying for traffic relief. What we lack in this city are options, and this is what we are trying to do."
Only one of the two commuter ferries, the Melissa Ann, has been in operation this week, eliminating one service in each direction. Mar said they will have a better idea later this week if the city can operate the Rachel Marie next week, as it had stated earlier, pending Coast Guard certification.