Water Transportation in Massachusetts: Where is it now and where is it going

Across the country, water transportation has proven to be a reliable, safe, and efficient option for commuters. You can see the massive success of investing in water transportation by looking at metropolitan hubs like San Francisco, New York City and Seattle who have successfully reduced traffic through modern infrastructure and fair pricing.

Now, the spotlight is on Boston. More people have decided to live and work around the Harbor, and water transportation is a tangible alternative for Boston residents frustrated with current public transit options plagued with delays, unreliability, and safety issues, as highlighted by a recent major derailment of the red line.

In a 2017 study, the Pioneer Institute found the ferry more reliable and cost-effective than Boston’s T and buses, and recommended the city look to the Harbor as a critical component in the transformation of our transportation systems. In order to progress alongside growth in communities like the Seaport and East Boston, they recommended Boston create a water transportation system that is easy to use, cost competitive, and safe.

Currently, ferries connecting Massachusetts’ coastal communities are managed by the MBTA and/or Boston Harbor Cruises, delivering eight passenger ferry routes. However, there is no commuter route within the inner Harbor that serves the expected population and job growth throughout the city.

Boston Harbor Now, along with support from state agencies and other stakeholders, recently launched the “Comprehensive Boston Water Transportation Study and Business Plan.” The nine-month study and planning process will identify sites for new and expanded ferry service by looking at coastal locations and transit opportunities The organization will create a model to determine the top three routes with the most financially sustainable service, and by spring 2019, proposed routes should be completed. Included in the final shortlist is an Inner Harbor circulator, which consists of combinations between Logan Airport, Lewis Mall in East Boston, Navy Yard Pier 4 in Charlestown, Lovejoy Wharf (North Station), Long Wharf, Rowes Wharf, Fan Pier and World Trade Center East.

It’s all-hands-on-deck working on Boston’s next big move in transportation—maybe commuters will be getting their sea legs sooner than we think!

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