Project Overview

Over the past three decades, more than $25 billion in public funds were used to clean up the harbor, reroute the Central Artery, and create the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. Those public investments have been more than matched in historic rates of private development—and rush hour traffic jams—along the waterfront.

Boston Harbor Now managed a two-part project—the Comprehensive Boston Harbor Water Transportation Study and Business Plans and the Water Transportation Strategy for the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park—to study expanded water transportation in greater Boston. After a competitive RFP process, Steer in partnership with KPFF was selected to lead the study

The study and planning process identified sites for new and expanded ferry service by looking at locations within the Inner Harbor, along the North and South Shores, and to the Harbor Islands. Ferry dock sites and potential routes were analyzed by modeling potential demand, operating costs, and capital costs. The study also included best practices for incorporating alternative clean fuel vessels and other environmentally beneficial technologies into water transportation services and model how water transportation can reduce CO2 and particulate emissions resulting from riders shifting to ferries and reduce congestion on other regional transportation networks.

The funding for this work comes from a diversity of stakeholders including MassDOT, Massport, the National Park Service, the Seaport Economic Council of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority as well as the Barr Foundation, the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, and the developers of Clippership Wharf and the Envoy Hotel.

Potential sites for new ferry service and for gateways to the Harbor Islands included the Inner Harbor as well as the Mystic River and Chelsea Creek, the Outer Harbor from Scituate to Salem. New services around Massachusetts Bay as far from downtown Boston as Gloucester, Plymouth, and Provincetown were also possibilities.

Over the course of the study, while developing site profiles and possible routes, the team met with key stakeholders to receive input from community leaders, conduct a public survey, and ensure that widespread outreach involves waterfront communities and neighborhoods around the region.

To learn more about this process or the findings of the study, please contact Alice Brown at

Water Transportation Plans for New Ferry Services

The culmination of the Comprehensive Water Transportation Study was two business plans for new routes that can be implemented in the next five years. Below are detailed reports for ferry services that include recommended dock improvements and vessels, projected ridership based on select fares and frequencies, and financial pro-formas for investing in and operating these routes.

Dock Reports

For the eight communities studied in the early stages of the process who do not have existing MBTA service or a new business plan, all of the research and analysis collected about their dock sites has been compiled in these reports.

Draft Reports

Below are interim reports for the public to review:

You can also learn more about the MBTA’s ferry service: