When it comes to cutting emissions and commuter traffic, many cities have an option besides BRT or high-speed rail -- boats.
Large urban areas on rivers or estuaries have long provided ferries or water taxis as an option for commuters and tourists. Given the recent pressure to reduce the number of cars on the road, this choice is more often considered.
In Tampa, Fla., for instance, officials are studying the feasibility of building a ferry service linking commuters across a six-mile stretch of city's eponymous bay.
Incidentally, for a glimpse of Tampa Bay's traffic, bay views, and overall urban feel, check out the following video:
Proponents of the Tampa Bay proposal say that a $24 million system of two boats carrying a total of 250 people every 30 minutes across the bay could turn a 25- to 35-minute commute into one of 17 minutes that would eliminate 1,250 cars from rush-hour traffic.
In Vancouver, a specially designed "fast ferry" is planned from Slipstream Vehicles Ltd. that could speedily deliver travelers from outlying districts into the city.
Elsewhere, water ferries have worked well for a long time. In New York City, for instance, ferries across the Hudson River are used by daily commuters, though expense is an issue.
Boston, too, has a fairly extensive ferry system. According to a recent LinkedIn thread, Venice, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey; Chicago; and Rotterdam, Netherlands also have notable commuter boat systems.
Water ferries have their downsides: In New York City, the cost of actually commuting by ferry is high. As one poster on Yelp put it:
I really don't think there is a need to elaborate on the point that as a method of transportation the ferry blows buses and trains out of the water. I'm sure most NJ Transit and MTA subway commuters would rather take a 15 minute boat ride instead.
However the price of this convenience is so ridiculous that I can't even admit to any of my co-workers that I do this. Monthly pass between Port Imperial and World Financial Center is $358. Parking is $140 a month. It is safe to assume that it costs more than $2 a month of gas to travel between my place and the ferry terminal. Hence commute costs using this method end up above $500 a month, which in my opinion is absolutely insane.
Ferries may also not save time once commuters land at their destination, thanks to the need to queue up for jitneys in order to make further connections.
All that said, it's clear that ferries retain their appeal as a commuting option -- one that city planners are wise to contemplate improving and developing.
— Mary Jander, Managing Editor, UBM's Future Cities