The Ferry from Hingham to Boston

Leaving the road behind.

Credit: Bob Seay

Boston's Ferry Service: 'The Best Commute in America'

November 7, 2017

Commuters aboard the Hingham to Boston Ferry will tell you it's the best commute in America. Compared to a frustrating ride on Rt. 93, the Commuter Rail or the Red Line, commuters aboard the ferry actually look forward to going to work.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is planning to expand ferry service next year by launching a rush-hour ferry service between North Station and the South Boston waterfront, which could be up and running as soon as next spring. It will be a public service funded by private companies — whose employees would ride for free. 

There's no denying that cruising in comfort across scenic Boston Harbor is a commute hard not to like. In fact, of all the T transit modes, the ferry service has the highest on-time performance rate — 98 percent — which probably accounts for it being the T's most popular service..

Expanding ferry service using public funds is a challenge, as it is costly to operate and to use — a monthly round-trip commuter pass costs more than $600. But the passengers I spoke with thought it was well worth the price considering the alternatives: an exhausting and tedious drive into the city, or a subway and commuter rail service that's not always there when you need it.

Greg Sullivan of the Pioneer Institute co-authored a study that concluded additional ferry service could provide an opportunity for the cash-strapped MBTA to expand service without the enormous up-front investment required to extend commuter rail lines. But Marc Ebuna of the transportation watchdog group "Transit Matters" says every dollar spent on ferries takes away from what the MBTA should be spending on improving commuter rail service, which serves many more commuters.

The MBTA currently offers year round service to Charlestown, Hingham, Hull, and Logan Airport. And there's seasonal ferry services to Salem, Lynn, Winthrop, and Quincy — either funded by the MBTA, MASSDOT, or in the case of Salem, the city itself. The Pioneer Institute’s Greg Sullivan says that private interests will have to step up if Boston Harbor ferry service is to expand.

That's what The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is hoping. If the new ferry service is successful, it could serve as a model for future ferry service.

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