SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Federal Transit Administration recently granted the Chatham Area Transit (CAT) ferry service $1.28 million for a new ferry boat.
The new 129-passenger boat will expand the Savannah Belles Ferry fleet from four to five boats, just in time for the expansion of the Savannah Convention Center.
“It allows us to have an extra vessel, an extra boat on the water when there are special events at the trade center or at the Westin,” Michael Brown, CAT Interim CEO and Executive Director, said. “What it does is it takes an already efficient ferry service and makes it even better.”
The ferry service links downtown Savannah to Hutchinson Island and allows passengers to ride for free from 7 a.m. to midnight.
“It makes it an easy ride for families and for people that work over in the trade center and at the Westin,” Brown said. “And for people who just want to experience the ferry experience to ride up and down and across the river.”
Jimmy Gunby, the Director of Marine Operations for CAT, has worked with the ferries since the service began in 2000.
“Savannah is just a busy town,” Gunby said. “We average about 1,800 passengers a day on a regular day so especially when a convention is in, our ridership tends to increase.”
Ferry boat traffic is expected to reach one million passengers each year.
Some passengers said even though they may be commuting for work, the ferry rides are a fun part of their day. Ferry riders are families, commuters, and tourists alike, and some passengers say the ferries are a staple in Savannah.
Brandy Jones travels to Savannah for work and always uses the ferry service each time she’s in town. She says she enjoys the ride, especially because it’s free and efficient.
“It’s been easy. You just get on the ferry and go where you have to go, get on, and come back,” Jones said.
The new ferry is expected to join the CAT fleet in 2021.
“It’ll make us even more efficient because right now we have 20 to 30-minute headways and we can reduce that with an extra vessel,” Brown said. “We’re excited and we just want everyone to know that our ferry service is good now but it’s going to get even better.”