Boston Harbor Now Launches Study of Ferry Service

Could impact Provincetown and Cape Cod as a whole...

Boston Harbor Now announced today the selection of Steer Davies Gleave in partnership with KPFF to lead a comprehensive study of scheduled passenger ferry services in Boston Harbor following a competitive RFP process. The nine-month study and planning process will identify sites with the highest potential to support new or expanded ferry service within the Inner Harbor, along the North and South Shores, and to the Harbor Islands.

The Comprehensive Boston Harbor Water Transportation Study and Business Plans and the Water Transportation Strategy for the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park are complementary processes that bring together a diverse group of stakeholders. Potential sites for new ferry service and for gateways to the Harbor Islands include the Inner Harbor as well as the Mystic River and Chelsea Creek and the Outer Harbor. New services around Massachusetts Bay as far from Downtown as Gloucester, Plymouth, and Provincetown are also possibilities.

Given the desire of many waterfront communities to have ferry service for commuting and tourism as well as greater access to the islands, the two studies will be run in parallel by Boston Harbor Now and share data resources. “The Comprehensive Boston Harbor Water Transportation Study and Business Plans builds on a growing interest in ferry services,” said Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack. “This study will also allow us to work with our community partners to identify routes and develop business plans for the services with the highest potential for ridership and financial success.”

The MBTA currently offers scheduled ferry service year round to the Charlestown Navy Yard, Hingham, Hull, and Logan Airport. There is also seasonal service to Salem and Provincetown, and the Town of Winthrop purchased its own boat last year and runs seasonal service to Boston.  

“Over the past 25 years, billions of dollars of public investment have fueled a historic level of waterfront development, creating demand for greater mobility and transportation options in and around Boston,” said Kathy Abbott, President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now. “This study will provide the data needed to determine where to encourage strategic expansion of routes and investments in infrastructure. Successful routes will support transit-oriented development along the waterfront, provide a reliable transportation alternative to driving, and recreational access to the Boston Harbor Islands.”

To date, funding for the water transportation study has been contributed by MassDOT, Massport, the National Parks Service, the Seaport Council of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Affairs, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority as well as the Barr Foundation, the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, and the developers of Clippership Wharf. Discussions with additional funders and partners are ongoing.

The study will also include best practices for incorporating alternative clean fuel vessels and other environmentally beneficial technologies into water transportation services. It will also model how water transportation can reduce CO2 and particulate emissions resulting from riders shifting to ferries and reduce congestion on other regional transportation networks.

Over the course of the study, Boston Harbor Now and SDG will analyze ferry dock sites and potential routes by modelling potential demand, operating costs, and capital costs. While developing site profiles and possible routes, the team will meet with key stakeholders to receive input from community leaders, conduct a public survey, and ensure that widespread outreach involves waterfront communities and neighborhoods around the region.

Boston Harbor Now will share the data from this study with the Massachusetts Water Transportation Advisory Committee to inform the group’s ongoing work and the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership in order to guide funding and operating decisions being made over the course of the next several years.

The last water transportation plan of this depth was led by the then-BRA and completed in 2000, while the Big Dig was still underway. Gateway sites to the Harbor Islands were last studied in 2002. Earlier studies from the late 1980’s and mid-1990’s were planning for a Boston region with a smaller population and significantly less waterfront development.

Water transportation options are expanding in waterfront cities around the United States and the world. In particular the New York, San Francisco, and Seattle areas have recently increased ferry service with access to new locations. SDG and KPFF has recently been involved in the planning for both the NYC Ferry service on the East River and from Rockaway and Kitsap Transit from the county west of Seattle across the Puget Sound.

Boston Harbor Now expects the study to be completed by March of 2018.

Boston Harbor Now was founded in 2016 as a merger of The Boston Harbor Association and Boston Harbor Island Alliance. Boston Harbor Now, in partnership with public agencies, communities, for-profit, and non-profit partners, is working to re-establish Boston as one of the world’s truly great coastal cities. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on