The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics conducts a nationwide census of ferry boat operators for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the collected information is used for statistical purposes. The Caltrans Division of Local Assistance has been asked by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to gather data regarding ferry operations under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21 includes a new formula program for ferry boats and ferry terminal facilities eligible under 23 USC 129(c) which authorizes federal participation in toll roads, bridges, tunnels, and ferries. FHWA has asked that Caltrans assure the ferry boat data is current for MAP-21.

The Mineta Transportation Institute was initially contacted by Caltrans to conduct this census in 2012 and a report was delivered later that year. Now the census has been completed with updates through November 2018. The research team collected information from 25 water transportation operators throughout California and produced 42 accompanying maps that depict routes and terminals where the operators provide service. Tabular information for each operator catalogs their number of vessels, passenger counts, fares, seating capacity, route lengths and other data points. Note that a number of operators, despite repeated contact via phone and email, chose not to reply.

This report organizes water transportation operations into three sections based on California geography: northern California, the Sacramento Delta region; and southern California. A fourth section documents four operators who did not fall within those three geographic regions.

The report concludes with a listing of recreational voyage operators (e.g. cruises, fishing trips) that the authors felt did not constitute “water transportation” for the purposes of the detailed census yet may be of interest to those applying a broader definition of water transport.

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MTI Project



Water transportation, Ferry service, Public transit, Ferries