Cross-Bay Ferry returns for extended 2022-2023 season

Hillsborough County, Tampa and St. Petersburg public officials are celebrating the return of the Cross-Bay Ferry for its sixth season of service from downtown to downtown. 

The first trip of the season embarked at 4:45 p.m. from the dock at North Straub Park in St. Pete. 

"The sun is out. We're on the waterfront. We're bringing people back and forth," said Chris Steinocher, president and CEO at St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. "I think these are the kind of days that we should celebrate and really demand more of." 

Last season, the aluminum catamaran carried more than 62,000 riders, which was 10,000 above its previous high.

"That's a lot of cars off the road. That's a lot of business. That's a lot of economy," said Kimberly Overman, the chair of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. "It helps people get around in a way that's not dependent on many other resources that we currently don't have."

Season six brings bigger goals. The city of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Hillsborough County say the ferry service could be a long-term, local transportation resource that would help relieve roadway congestion, boost commerce and provide a fast, fun, and affordable way to travel. 

"Long term. All year round," said Brandi Gabbard, who represents District 2 on St. Petersburg City Council. "Making sure that it is reliable transit that we can count on, that we have numerous routes that people can take throughout the day."

Earlier this year, regional transit officials got nearly $5 million in federal grants for a new boat that'll hold 350 passengers, doubling the current capacity, and paving the way for an added stop in south Hillsborough.

"If this project goes as planned, we're going to be able to provide an alternative way to get almost 2,000 drivers off the road so that they can get to MacDill Air Force Base on a daily basis and reduce the congestion that we're seeing in south county," Overman said.

RELATED: MacDill AFB could be new stop for Cross Bay Ferry service to help employees commute to work

While they await the bigger boat, they're adding an extra month of service and extending operating hours. The 2022-2023 season runs until May, Wednesdays through Sundays. The ferry's final departure from Tampa will be at 10:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 7:30 p.m. on Sundays.

"I imagine a day in St. Pete, where I go across to Apollo Beach and live, and come back here to play," Steinocher said.

It's all about collaboration between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Tampa, St. Pete, and the Florida Dept. of Transportation, linking transit options we already have.

For example, you can take the free TECO Line Streetcar from Ybor City to the ferry at the Tampa Convention Center. Then, in St. Pete, you catch the free SunRunner bus, launching Friday, from downtown to St. Pete Beach, all for a $12 one-way ferry ticket.

"To go from downtown Tampa all the way out to the beaches, to not have to get in a car to do so, is absolutely phenomenal," Gabbard said.

Traffic and parking can be the least of your worries. 

Tickets at $12 for adults and $8 for seniors, children, military service members and veterans. You can get your tickets at the dockside booths or at