Best strategy to get to Clearwater Seashore? Well-liked Clearwater Ferry alleviates traffic, parking woes
Tiffany Razzano | Tuesday, August 08, 2017
Clearwater Ferry prepares to depart
Photograph courtesy of Clearwater Ferry
Crossing with ease on ferry
Photo courtesy of Clearwater Ferry
Picture by Tiffany Razano.
When Camille Hebting first moved to Pinellas County from Europe three years in the past, she was surprised by the lack of different transportation.
In her native France, she by no means needed a car. didn own one until I moved right here,she says. relied on trains and tramways and busses and by no means had an issue till I moved to Florida./p>
Now the gross sales and marketing manager for Clearwater Ferry, she is aware of firsthand how crucial it’s to carry a variety of transportation options to the world. e’e so behind when it comes to other cities and states,she says.
That is why Clearwater Ferry, which transports beachgoers and employees from Downtown Clearwater to Clearwater Beach Marina, North Seashore and Island Estates has a key position in the area development, as tourism soars alongside the seashore, Hebting says. The realm routinely breaks its own tourism records and ranks high among the very best beaches on this planet.
Extra visitors means extra stress on the roadways — it common for the Clearwater Memorial Causeway to have traffic backed up for miles during the peak tourism season. Parking along the seaside is all the time a problem, too.
or the final two a long time, parking has at all times been on the forefront of Clearwater Beach problems. There only so many spaces if you’e not staying at a lodge,says Lisa Chandler, proprietor of Pier 60 Concessions and Barefoot Seashore Home. consider the ferry has been a huge part of the solution. It eases the burden on the causeway and provides to the customer expertise./p>
Hebting says turning to local waterways to alleviate traffic woes is natural alternative./h2>
She provides, t completely underutilized. There so much water in our county. You may go from [Clearwater] all the strategy to St. Pete Seashore to Tampa, even, and also you may very well be on a boat the whole time./p>
How it all started
Launching a ferry service will be daunting, especially if business homeowners have never worked in the boating trade before, Hebting says. There have been makes an attempt to deliver ferries to the Clearwater Seashore area previously, however none has panned out.
But Trisha and Dennis Rodriguez have owned and operated the Tropics Boat Tours, a charter boat firm that offers party cruises and scenic tours of Clearwater Seaside, for the previous eight years. It was a pure transfer for them to branch into ferry service.
t was a simple transition for them,Hebting says. his is why the boat business didn scare the homeowners an excessive amount of. Boats all the time bring a bit little bit of trouble, mechanical and all that. They undoubtedly weren new to the boat enterprise, which made it simpler./p>
Clearwater Ferry launched in March 2015 with one boat, a 42-passenger pontoon boat that shuttled passengers from downtown to the Clearwater Seaside Marina.
Finally, ridership showed there was a need for extra stops — North Beach, simply behind the Clearwater Seaside Recreation Center, and eventually Island Estates.
A second, 21-passenger boat, was added to the combination, as well as an categorical route that runs again and forth between the two busiest hubs — downtown and Clearwater Seashore Marina.
t basically all about ridership and what ridership needs,Hebting says.
A third boat, which may accommodate forty nine passengers, was added to the company arsenal in current months.
Clearwater Ferry will also expand its services to Dunedin, which was the number one requested stop by passengers, she says. After working intently with the city, a pilot route to Dunedin will begin this fall.
淧eople staying on the seashore need to have the ability to go locations with out going in a automotive,Hebting says. Dunedin is a convenient day trip for those staying on the seashore, but provided that they have access to easy transportation. 淢erchants [in Dunedin] are excited to see the potential of the tourism./p>
The ferry may also draw Dunedin and north county residents, who, like Clearwater residents, were turned off by traffic, back to the seaside. hey need to be ready to return to the seaside once more,she says.
There have been conversations between the ferry service and elected officials in Indian Rocks Seaside and Belleair over the past year. Both can be mart stopsdown the street, Hebting says.
Numbers show the need
Within the company first 25 months, it ferried more than 140,000 individuals to and from the seaside. The typical is 5,500 riders a month, with the numbers jumping significantly throughout peak months. In April, the ferry noticed closer to 17,000 passengers and round eleven,000 the month earlier than, Hebting says.
Ridership — and tourism generally — is at its peak from March by August, she says. Each decelerate from September by way of February.
There are additionally plenty of events in the course of the spring months that rely on the ferry to assist alleviate site visitors. f there anything going on at the beach, we’e going to see higher numbers,Hebting says. his is why our April numbers were so excessive. There a lot occurring at the beach and it Easter time and it spring break./p>
Chandler, who also runs the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival in April, used the ferry to transport its 400 volunteers to the occasion. Many of those attending the occasion additionally used the ferry to avoid traffic and parking on the beach. t just a ten-minute boat trip and such a welcome addition to the world,she says. t actually eased the burden on the world throughout Sugar Sand and different [occasions.] It an easy method on and off the island./p>
David Downing, government director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, says he impressed by the ferry ridership numbers, however not surprised. joyful to see individuals understanding its value,he adds. he ferry is connecting guests with Clearwater Seashore in a really actual manner. It looks like such a no-brainer on so many ranges./p>
Greater than a ferry
Whereas there’s a utilitarian purpose to the ferry, it additionally serves to reinforce the tourist expertise in other methods.
hile there’s a need for an alternate mode of transportation, there positively an entertainment worth,Chandler says. t fun to take a boat to the place it is advisable to go./p>
She references the Walt Disney World theme park in Orlando. From the ticketing space, visitors can access the parks by two modes of transportation — boat or monorail. o it becomes a part of the expertise,she says, uch just like the ferry here./p>
Hebting says Clearwater Ferry tagline when it launched was kip the site visitors. Trip the ferry./p>
ut lots of people take the ferry even on days when there isn’t a visitors,she says. t useful in alleviating visitors, nevertheless it enhances the seaside experience, too./p>
Disconnect with seashore employees
The one ridership phase not rising as anticipated is seaside employees, Hebting says.
The ferry was designed with each day trippers and staff in thoughts. ay trippers have taken and embraced it as their asset to make use of, nevertheless it looks like not plenty of employees decided this was something for them, something that fit them,she says.
Clearwater Ferry has made efforts to reach employees along the seaside. In February, it met with managers and owners of seashore businesses to debate the opportunity of dedicating one in every of its boats to workers throughout peak months.
For this to be financially feasible, the ferry service needed a minimal of a hundred workers to decide to a seasonal pass. Only 20 signed up.
here are 10,000 workers on Clearwater Seashore. So to let you know we solely need one hundred is not really loopy,Hebting says. 淢aybe it has to do with the industry and excessive turnover and it being seasonal. So possibly they aren’t desirous to commit./p>
Workers do journey the ferry, she adds. But they’e extra probably to purchase one-means tickets moderately than round trip or month-to-month passes. So for now, concentrate on drawing staff 渢o extra of a commitment [to the ferry]is on the backburner, she says.
What next for the Clearwater Ferry?
When ferry companies launched two years in the past, it was funded solely by the house owners. Since then, the corporate has obtained some funding from the town of Clearwater and Pinellas County.
Now the town and Clearwater Ferry are taking its partnership a step further. As the city strikes forward with Imagine Clearwater, a redesign and reactivation of the downtown waterfront and bluff, it can embrace infrastructure for the ferry. Two terminals might be constructed — one downtown, where riders leave their automobiles, and another at Clearwater Seaside Marina.
The custom-built facilities will embody a ticket booth, info in regards to the ferry service and space attractions, and a ready area. t going to be lots higher for our visibility,Hebting says.
Think about Clearwater plans are in the early levels, though, she says. So even when the ferry terminal is included in the primary section of development, it nonetheless at the very least a 12 months away from getting began, she adds.
She also says Clearwater Ferry hasn dominated out eventually connecting with other modes of transportation in the area, together with Clearwater Jolley Trolley, county busses and Tampa Bay Ferry & Water Taxi, which runs from Madeira Seashore to St. Petersburg. If the Cross-Bay Ferry, a pilot program connecting Tampa and St. Petersburg resumes, there potential to take a ferry from Clearwater Beach all the strategy to Tampa if the three companies can find a strategy to work collectively, she adds.
t about lining up schedules and ensuring the quality of service is identical. It actually about making sure consistency is there,Hebting says. ut all those connections, I think, are going to be crucial to bringing alternative transportation to the realm./p>
Clearwater, Entrepreneurship, Expertise, Tourism, Transportation
Read more articles by Tiffany Razzano.
Tiffany Razano is a Pinellas County-based mostly author and editor masking town of Clearwater and different information and features in the Tampa Bay region for 83 Degrees.
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