Where mass transit matters (pt. 6) – ferry tales

Liverpool - Source: panaramio.com

Some may wonder why I am now writing about ferries, considering I just posted a blog about water taxis? In my unscientific interpretation, they are different forms of mass transit. Ferries ship people and goods between specific points across a waterway – essentially like a waterborne bridge.

Water taxis on the other hand, move people (principally) up and down and along the shoreline from stop to stop, also crossing the water feature in many instances. Ferries tend to be larger vessels and often can carry cars or other vehicles, as well as passengers.

Before I get to far into this topic, let me first say that I love ferries – there is something quite romantic and captivating about crossing a body of water on a ferry. In urban areas many of them become iconic features of the local landscape. I also have a fairly decent collection of books and postcards on ferry boats and services. So, please keep in mind this post is being written by somewhat of a ferry geek.

Staten Island Ferry - Source: newyork-hq.com

I simply cannot imagine New York City without the Staten Island Ferry, which happens to carry 75,000 passengers per weekday. Nor could I ever imagine Seattle without its loveable fleet of Washington State ferries or Liverpool without its famous “Ferry Cross the Mersey.” Talk about placemaking -non of these cities would be the same without their handsome ferries plying the adjacent waters.

Seattle - en.wikipedia.org

But New York City, Liverpool, and Seattle are hardly alone when it comes to ferries being an important cog in a multi-modal transportation system. Here’s a partial list of cities with ferry systems around the world that are functionally part of  the local multi-modal transportation system and not just water crossings:

Sydney - Source: sydneytraveltips.com

Some may say ferries are much too expensive and hard to keep profitable. My response is compare the cost of the ferry to that of a new bridge or tunnel. Or, better yet, consider the costs of the increased congestion that would undoubtedly result from not having the ferry as an option. Roads and highways are not, nor should they ever be, the lone solution in a planner’s quiver of transportation choices.

Lastly, if one of our goals as urban planners is to “make places,” then a ferry, a water taxi, an incline, or a cable car are unique ways to differentiate one’s community from the pack. Otherwise, if we want all cities just to be clones, then there really is little, if any need for planners.

I will get off my soapbox now.

This entry was posted in cities, energy, environment, history, land use, new urbanism, placemaking, tourism, transit, transportation, Uncategorized, urban planning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Where mass transit matters (pt. 6) – ferry tales

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