Councilors float idea of ferry service to connect waterfront neighborhoods

Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina says he sometimes gets frustrated with the otherwise beautiful view from Piers Park in East Boston: He can see the Seaport in South Boston, but knows the only way to get there by public transportation is via three subway lines and a bus.

LaMattina, who represents East Boston, Charlestown and the North End, has teamed up with Councilor Bill Linehan, whose district includes South Boston and downtown, on a proposal to create ferry lines to stitch together the city's neighborhoods along the water.

"It would be great that people from Charlestown would be able to come to East Boston, use our beautiful Greenway, take their kids on a bike, and go to a beach," LaMattina told fellow councilors yesterday. "There's some folks in East Boston that don't like a beach, but they could go to the North End and use the outdoor pool."

Linehan said there's a more immediate reason to develop "a really comprehensive [ferry] network and strategy:" Next year's Sail Boston, which he said will bring millions of people to Boston with no easy way to get between the ships docked in Charlestown, downtown wharves and East Boston.

The council approved their request for a hearing at which the city transportation department, MassDOT and Massport could begin to figure out how to create a Boston Harbor ferry network so that Boston is not left in the wake of cities such as New York and Baltimore.

"There's money in the BRA for two ferries and it's just sitting there," LaMattina said. Linehan said Massport currently spends $1 million a year on a ferry between Long Wharf and Logan that he said almost nobody uses and that maybe the money could be better spent on ferries people would actually take.

"With all this waterfront development taking place in the city, there has to be some money available to subsidize this ferry," LaMattina said.



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"It would be great that people from Charlestown would be able to come to East Boston, use our beautiful Greenway, take their kids on a bike, and go to a beach,"

Yeah not sure I'd want to swim at Constitution Beach since it's pretty much the end of a runway.

Inner Harbor ferries.. I've just never understood why we have them. While its appealing to ride a boat on a nice day, not to sure how practical it is for commuting. I always wondered (and probably could look myself) to see what the ridership is like.. probably not very much. I know some of the outer ferries have high ridership but they are coming from places like Hingham and Salem where its practical to ride. Charlestown -> Long Wharf.. not so much. (not when there's like 4 options to get to the same place on a bus or a train)

I'd rather see that $ spent on improving the Silver Line. Which eventually will run from Airport Station to South Station to remove a 3 transfer ride to South Station (Blue -> Orange -> Red) to give them the connection

Ferry Godmother

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Personally, I would love an East Boston to Downtown/South Boston ferry, but you're right, in terms of commuters I would guess that it would mainly serve folks who live over by Jeffries Point. I can't see people getting on at Wonderland, out at Maverick and taking the ferry over to South Boston (especially in crappy weather when it might be a crap shoot as to whether it is running or not).

The eventual Silver Bus from Chelsea to South Boston waterfront could potentially pull in a lot more folks hopping off the commuter rail in Chelsea and grabbing the Silver Bus to "Burlington on the Harbor."

The more intriguing idea is the Hingham model. Traffic going north (routes 1, 107, 1A) or south (routes 3, 3a) just blows monkeys, so a more reliable coastal transit system might be a solution (given that we will never see a "northeast expressway" or other new huge car mover/linear parking lot construction). Lynn is ramping up to be "Hingham North." With proper planning (chuckle) our transportation "planners" could help alleviate some of the commuter traffic on those routes by getting people from hubs like Salem, Lynn, Gloucester, Scituate, Plymouth(?) to their jobs in downtown Boston efficiently and right the hell off the roads.

Interestingly, there is a model for a limited audience commuter shuttle and that's Winthrop. Not exactly a hub of commuters but it does a good job of serving that one community. Gee, how did they get that perk? Friends in high places...


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Personally, I would love an East Boston to Downtown/South Boston ferry, but you're right, in terms of commuters I would guess that it would mainly serve folks who live over by Jeffries Point.

I didn't say I didn't like the idea.. but I could think of better ways to spend it. I think this would be more for tourists (both local and non-local) and less about the commuters. Ridership would be key.. hard to justify subsiding a ferry that may only take 20 people a day, all day.

Good idea and a fun thing for tourists... commuters not so much.

And yeah from Lynn or Hingham.. water transportation does make a lot of sense. I just still don't get the inner harbor ferries tho.

Ferries North

The Salem Ferry is a fun ride - but a long one and seasonal only. It's great for tourism.

The Lynn Ferry exceeded expectations for ridership last year and was nearly as fast as the commuter rail. Unfortunately, the cash-strapped MBTA pulled funding. So, newly-elected Congressman Seth Moulton and others found federal funding so the city can purchase its own boat and operate it year-round. In the meantime, there is still a bit of a scramble to secure funding to have some sort of service this season because I guess the new boat takes time.. or something.

Ferries very very seldom get

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Ferries very very seldom get stuck because of weather, even in the midst of winter. Portland, Maine has 4 or 5 outlying islands from which kids commute to school every day, year round. NYC, for instance, also has intra-habor ferries on both rivers, essentially just getting people from brooklyn or NJ to manhattan. I used to ride them all the time and it beat the hell out of the alternatives.

I commuted for a summer on a

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I commuted for a summer on a NYC cross-river ferry, and I didn't really get the point. It ended up taking an hour door-to-door even though my destination was right at the dock, by the time I waited for the shuttle bus, sat in traffic, and waited for the ferry connection.

Commuting and Tourism

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I used to commute on the Charlestown/Long Wharf ferry. In the winter and rain, it was usually faster than riding a bus through the congested, weather-affected streets. (I'll admit, however, ridership numbers were lower than the buses.) In the summer, the ferry is packed with tourists.

A Seaport/Eastie connection would be great to connect the "ring." I think Inner Harbor ferries are great.


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I take the Charlestown/Long Wharf ferry and walk to Courthouse to get the Silver Line to my office way down at the far end of the Seaport. Continuing the ferry in an inner harbor loop would be awesome. Last winter, the ferry was far and away the fastest and easiest way to get around with all the snow piles blocking lanes downtown.

Charlestown ferry

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Actually the Charlestown ferry is extremely popular, reliable and has a dedicated year round ridership. However it was created as a half commuter/half tourist operation in mind, as it stops on near the Constitution. The smaller boats used are often filled to capacity on busy summer days.

The "Logan to long wharf" shuttle isn't used because it isn't advertised as such. That is one leg of the Hingham/Hull (formerly Quincy) commuter boat and it's hard to interpret the schedule properly because it's one leg of the overall trip between Hingham and Long Wharf, not an independent service. There also is a large fleet of water taxis that service all the cities major spots. Perhaps Councillor Lamattina would like to read up about those.

We live in the navy yard and

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We live in the navy yard and actually use the charlestown to long wharf ferry all the time. It's the best way to get downtown from our area easily. We would really really love it if we could get to east boston from our area to go out to eat or explore the neighborhood. It feels really disconnected despite the fact we can see it from across the harbor.

Yeah not sure I'd want to

Yeah not sure I'd want to swim at Constitution Beach since it's pretty much the end of a runway.

I swim there a couple of times a year... it's not the best beach in the world, but there's nothing wrong with it.


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I used to chaperone youth trips to the city's "eh" beaches (Constitution & Carson, but I swear I've been to some others) around, say, 2009-2010.

Certainly not the nicest beaches, beach-wise, and not in the most aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods, but both have lovely playgrounds and when I was there, the bathrooms were recently renovated as well, with a clean and spacious restroom and changing areas.

Constitution gets weird at low-tide (there's signs posted inside the water to mark a dropoff) and the water at Carson gets full of litter after storms. The walks from the T weren't fabulous, either, and the DCR's lifeguards tend towards "warm body occupying seat." But both beaches were better than no beach, as far as having a few dozen rowdy camp kiddos to entertain goes.

Why do they have to reinvent

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Why do they have to reinvent the wheel? If a ferry connection between Eastie and Southie is so badly needed, then just add a new route to the existing MBTA ferry system, using one of the existing docks in Southie and a more convenient one than the existing one in Eastie.

Water Taxis

I don't know how economically viable it is, but rather than Hingham-sized commuter ferries I think somewhat smaller water taxis might entice day-trippers and tourists. In NYC, they work. In Chicago, they work. In Baltimore - you get the point. Is the idea transferable to Boston? I once took a small water taxi from Logan - 1990-something, and it was great. But, it wasn't easy to find and seemed full of folks in the know..

You can

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I don't know how economically viable it is, but rather than Hingham-sized commuter ferries I think somewhat smaller water taxis might entice day-trippers and tourists

You can already do this. There's a ton of water taxi's that service all points around the harbor. BHC offers one from their ferry dock to Logan's water transportation dock for 7 bucks. (many trippers who use the Fast Ferry to Ptown use the taxi to get to the airport for flights)

I agree its not widely known and maybe advertising this service would fill the gap.

I agree

Seems this region lacks the will, ability - or something - to effectively let folks know what it already has. They sucked at marketing night owl service and letting folks know how to find it, for one example. I'm a transplant with a communications background. I've been in situations with municipalities where I've suggested improved parking signage, for example, and it's like talking to a wall. Sometimes it's worse than that. I've learned to make folks think the idea comes from them.

/not really a consultant, but...


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yeah you're correct that the T and the state in general sucks at advertising services that we already have and then they wonder why ridership is low.

And I agree.. I think I know who you are (I think you're a newspaper editor/reporter for my town), so I know what its like to work with politicians. Trying to get my town (chelsea) to make some changes.. so slow and so many brick walls to climb. I understand why people don't bother making changes since it's such an uphill battle.


I'm an editor in Lynn with a day job in Chelsea and generally have been an outspoken pain in the butt in Lynn since 2007 via the Downtown Lynn Neighborhood Association. Which, by the way, is likely the least NIMBY of all New England neighborhood associations. We'd like more things!

Always felt Night Owl

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Was designed to fail.

It was more of a "See!? We tried it, doesn't work. Just Fughetaboutit."

There are major corporate

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There are major corporate companies with so much money out there, they should partner up with MBTA and pitch in for these Ferrys, and these companies should place their own advertisements on these ferrys, how about the hospital industry partners healthcare they can use these Ferrys to transport Eastie, Southie residents to Charlestown at the new Spaulding rehab facility, another is new arrival General Electric they should help and pitch in also.

Logan water ferry

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I really never understood why the Long Wharf to Logan ferry exists. Long Wharf is such a short walk to Aquarium where the blue line could be taken to the airport with just as much ease. Seems awfully redundant.


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I haven't done this in a while, but IIRC it was significantly faster to use the water taxi.

Kind of sad that Boston doesn

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Kind of sad that Boston doesn't have ferry service for its residents , It worked well in the 1930s and 1940s . It must be a liability issue , their probably been studying this subject for a while now, that's why there is a lengthy delay.
A better solution than the ferry, how about duck boats from Eastie to Southie only if the duck boat has a reduced transport rate for its residents.

What happened to the one at Rowes wharf?

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Back in the 90's I recall there was a ferry from Logan to Rowes Wharf that had radio ads and seemed to be well used. It was definitely a "thing" and it was the way a lot of people I knew planned to get to Logan. Whatever happened to that?

Sal LaMattina must have a

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Sal LaMattina must have a short memory. There WAS a ferry from Aquarium to Jeffries Point in East Boston back in the 90s. As an East Boston resident, I used to take it at Aquarium when I was coming home from work and the Blue Line would conk out, as it frequently did. I'm surprised more people didn't use this trick. The ferry was short lived however. I'm assuming due to lack of ridership or maybe the fact that people didn't know about it.

In all fairness

it's a "hot" neighborhood now, which changes things from the 90's quite a bit. Hell, it changes things from the start of this decade quite a bit.


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Didn't they just cut ferry service a few years ago? Maybe that was during the recession... anyone know?

The Quincy Ferry is dead

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I took that one a couple times but I think they lost the dock space in Quincy, so it no longer runs. Winthrop has also had an off-and-on again ferry that is now back in business after they went out and bought their own ferry.

That would float my boat

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That would have been awesome to have during the 4 years I lived off the Chelsea waterfront. Taking the 111 to Haymarket (and back, where they cram everyone into the bus like a can of sardines) to get to events at the Pavilion, BCEC, & World Trade Center was kiiiind of a giant PITA. Using a boat to just skip across would have been a godsend compared to that MBTA tango from hell...

tell me about it

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My current company has a conference at the World Trade Center every fall. I live in Chelsea so getting there for 6am is an absolute pain.

Yeah, but

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Vancouver doesn't have winter.
They are great little water taxis, though!

Who gives a shit about

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Who gives a shit about Vancouver.
Vancouver has the most billionaires, more than any North American city, and a lot of them coming in from China.

I'm a boat owner...

and, as such, know the layout of Boston Harbor fairly well. Just the same, I find the water-borne transport options to be fairly opaque, as noted by other commenters - lack of marketing.

Question: Are ferries and water taxis the same thing?


Question: Are ferries and water taxis the same thing?

Water taxis are run by BHC, which tend to be pricer (unless you're going to the airport), but have more stops. The MBTA runs the ferries we're talking about here and pretty much run between Charlestown and Aquarium, Hull/Hingham and Aquarium or Airport, and Airport to somewhere in the city "proper" (doesn't say online, but I'd assume Aquarium).

Just think of how many

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Just think of how many Tourists these ferries can pick up at one of the major waterfront stops and transport the Tourist to and from East Boston and have the Tourists enjoy and take photos of the skyline at the waterfront piers park and then head on over to Santarpios for a pizza and lamb. It will help the local Eastie business owner economically.
Or they can come to Eastie and look for an investment property to purchase to use as a BNB.


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Assuming that last sentence was a bit of snark - as I would add "or they can go die in a housefire."

Before we saddle taxpayers

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Before we saddle taxpayers with another donkey filled hackerama, I have a couple of suggestions for Mr LaMattina. My commute to City Point from Hyde Square JP is similar to the commute he describes, but I am not recommending a tax supported ferry line that would run down the Muddy River to the Charles and then to the harbor. If I wish to go to Sullivan's or walk around the Sugar Bowl or for that matter get a pizza at Santarpios I jump into my car. It is an amazing invention. It will not only take me to Southie when I want to go there but it will take me to see relatives and friends, shopping, entertainment, dining, church, vacation and all kinds of other places. Unlike public transportation it does not run most of the day empty or close to it. Instead it sits quietly and non polutantly in my driveway. If car ownership doesn't fit his lifestyle he can get a zip car.

oh cool

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I'm glad that's working out for you.

Hey everyone, just get a car and a driveway why don't ya!

63% of Boston households have

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63% of Boston households have a car.

We should try to reduce this by improving public transit, but we're not there yet.

Menino promised

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Four years ago the Federal Highway Administration gave us $1.28 million for two ferries to serve East Boston, Charlestown, and Seaport. Menino said they were set to launch in 2013. When nothing materialized, nobody said anything. Where's the money?

Boston Globe article