Thursday, September 17, 2015

We already have one...So lets spend millions to build another.

Pensacola and the National Park Service are planning on using BP money to purchase 2 ferries to shuttle people to Ft. Pickens, the beach and downtown.  I love the idea but worry that:

  • Folks will not want to walk long distances once they reach any of the locations.
    • Walk from Ft. Pickens ferry dock to the Gulf
    • Walk from Plaza deLuna to Palafox Place
    • Walk from Boardwalk to Casino beach with beach stuff
  • The initial price points I have seen make driving and paying $1 still look way too attractive.
  • The long ferry rides to the beach will also make driving shorter
Let's table the viability of the project for now and focus on some good ole fashioned Hayward waste.

In 2008, Al Coby put forth the ferry service idea much as it is laid out above.  In the memorandum to Council, Coby states:

"A concession and restroom facility is currently under construction at Plaza de Luna and an RFP was planned to solicit a concessionaire to operate and maintain the facility. Staff (city) is proposing that the concession contract for the concession building at Plaza de Luna include a ferry operation which would be berthed at the South Palafox marina. The ferry ticket operations are compatible with the concession operations as is frequently the case with ferry operations along the Gulf Coast."

Coby Ferry Concept

In 2009, the CRA solicited concessionaires for the small concession at Plaza de Luna.  The contract states:

"In the event that marine services (ferry, dinner cruises, etc) are secured and become operational at Plaza de Luna...the CRA may request operator to mutually re-negotiate some terms of the agreement to facilitate landside operations of the marine activity (ticket sales)"

Concession Contract Includes Ferry Service

So, fast forward.  The National Park Service is buying the ferries.  We already have the ticket booth. This is a slam dunk no cost proposal for Pensacola right?


Gonna use some federal grant HIGHWAY money to spend $ 1.837 million on a ticket facility and docks at Commendencia Street slip.

In four years, Pensacola will have a second (2nd) vacant transportation facility (AMTRAK station) while we continue to lose concessionaires at Plaza de Luna because you can only sell so much without adequate seating and limited kitchen facilities and no other purpose...such as ferry ticket sales as originally planned.

From: Clark Merritt []
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 9:10 AM
To: Eric Olson
Subject: Pensacola Bay Ferry System update

Update on ferry … may be more than you want for your presentation:

o   Four (4) RFQ responses for Architectural and Engineering services received. Assembling selection committee for Mayoral approval. Estimate oral presentations in September and contract award in October (FDOT must approve selection). Budget for engineering is $188,000.
o   Park Service working on an MOU for the three parties (Escambia County, City, Park Service). Park Service RFP for Ferry boats is on the street.
o   2nd grant request was awarded. Waiting on grant (from Federal Highways) award amount. Requested an additional $588,916 for a total of $1.837M to build the floating dock and landside improvements at Commendencia Park
o   On track for a spring 2017 opening of the Ferry service

M. Clark Merritt
Economic Development
Port of Pensacola | an enterprise of the City of Pensacola
PO Box 889 Pensacola, FL 32591
850-436-5074 (office) | 850-619-6299 (cell) |

Pensacola Citizen Support Line

For Non-Emergency Citizen Requests | Dial: 311 | or visit


By the way, if you are going to bid on Hayward's Folly....the budget approval is $ 1,837,000.


Anonymous said...

Do you ever leave Pensacola or just stay here and come up with reasons to be negative on everything. I get that people are lazy and don't like walking, but if you go to any other city even the smaller ones,tourists end up doing a bit of walking from attraction to attraction, and it's far less than what you are talking about here. I'm even talking about the lazy typical overweight tourists who walk at speeds that would make most healthy people want to take a nap. These distances are not far.

The gulf is likely a far walk from the Fort Pickens, but why wouldn't people be going to the beach. This gives people a neat way to also go from the beach to downtown to catch a ballgame or any of the other up and coming things downtown that you are probably against as well.

Overall I think this is another great amenity that adds to the attractiveness to the city. Admittedly I haven't looked into any of the financial shenanigans likely going on here.

Maren DeWeese said...


Yes I get out a bit. Many cities on rivers have low cost water taxis. Many I have used. New Orleans, Norfolk, Jacksonville. But according to the PNJ

"While the final ticket price may change, the price to ride will range from $12 to $15 per adult and $8 to $10 for children, seniors and military."

I don't see too many families of 4 paying $40+ to ride the ferry from the beach to a Wahoos game.

If the price point is as stated, these 100-150 passenger ferries will be mighty empty from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

Thanks for stopping by!


blew said...

The last paragraph from anonymous "Overall I think this is another great amenity that adds to the attractiveness to the city. Admittedly I haven't looked into any of the financial shenanigans likely going on here.", sadly seems to be the thought process out of city hall "sounds cool, let's do it" with no thought of how to pay for it or if it's economically feasible.

For the ferry service to have any chance to succeed there needs to be some cooperation with SRIA/Escambia County/whoever out at the beach. It's an unpopular opinion, but the toll on the beach needs to go up, or at least be dynamic. A random Monday night in January shouldn't cost the same as Blue Angels weekend. Maybe even let folks go out there for free on weeknights during the offseason, but charge $5, $10, $20 bucks per car during peak season/events (flat rate passes can be made available to residents and hotel/condo owners for guests), maybe even consider charging for parking at casino beach...I wouldn't expect a dramatic decrease in visitors to the beach, but it would be an assist in getting ridership for the ferry service (which would still need to go down a few bucks).

Anonymous said...

So the Mayor wants us to spend 1.87 million dollars building another ticket booth and restroom when we ALREADY did that in anticipation for the Ferry at Plaza de Luna? It makes more sense to utilize Plaza de Luna existing facilities (but then there wouldn't be any additional no bid contracts to give to friends)