Why We’re Excited about Water Transportation This Month
When we released the water transportation business plans with MassDOT, Massport, and our other partners in the spring of 2019, we expected the momentum to carry us into a whole range of new ferry services. One year later, ferry service in Boston Harbor was largely suspended by the MBTA’s decisions to pivot to Saturday service seven days a week as part of the pandemic response.
This spring, we’re thrilled to see all of the previous ferry services back at pre-pandemic levels and two different routes serving East Boston!
The services mirror the recommendations in our report. Boston Harbor Now had proposed an Inner Harbor Connector designed to connect the Seaport (at Fan Pier), Charlestown (at Pier 4), and East Boston (at Lewis Mall) with downtown Boston at Long Wharf and with each other via easy transfers. The biggest capital investment needed to start the service was a new ferry dock at Lewis Mall, which was completed in the fall of 2020. With both bow-loading and side-loading capabilities, two vessels can dock at once.
And now after years without it, East Boston has two ferry services: the Seaport service that kicked off in September of 2021 and the Long Wharf service that kicked off a new pilot on March 27, 2023.
- The East Boston to Seaport service runs every 20 minutes, Monday through Friday. $5 tickets can be purchased on an app, and some people may be eligible for free fares through their employers.
- The East Boston to Long Wharf service runs every 30 minutes, seven days a week. Tickets can be purchased on the mTicket app for $2.40, but the service is on track to be completely free this summer when the Sumner Tunnel closes for construction on July 5th.
- Note that during this temporary period of slow zones on MBTA subways, both of these routes along with the Charlestown ferry can be ridden for free just by showing a CharlieCard. People who get monthly CharlieCards for Zone 1A can also ride these routes any time for no additional charge.
At Boston Harbor Now, we’re excited about every new ferry service, but we’re especially enthusiastic about expanding MBTA ferry services. Although it’s not always easy to transfer between ferries and the buses and trains, we hope that it gets easier.
Restoring 2019 service to the South Shore has been another recent bright spot. Though local advocates on the South Shore fought hard to get the service from Hingham and Hull restarted, service remained sparse and the summer schedules ended early in the evening. Beginning Memorial Day weekend, weekend service will return to these routes and ferries will run later in the evening. Now, people can once again take a ferry to Hewitt’s Cove, developed as an MBTA Gateway not too long ago, for dinner and return to Boston easily, providing the economic development opportunities that the district was designed to flourish on. Looking to the future, Hingham can also anticipate dock improvements next year with a major federal grant.
There are also a range of other water transportation options to choose from on the Harbor—the Salem ferry, the Seaport ferry route to Lovejoy Wharf at North Station, ferry service to Boston from Winthrop and Quincy, a free water shuttle between Pier 6 in Charlestown and the Reel House in East Boston, a free water shuttle between Long Wharf and the Encore casino in Everett, and a water shuttle between the ICA and their Watershed in East Boston. To find the water transportation options for your next trip, we keep our resource guide up to date.