Tampa Bay Ferry and Water Taxi hopes to use this seawall off 55th Avenue in St. Pete Beach to drop off and pick up passengers for its proposed Gulfport to St. Pete Beach route.
ST. PETE BEACH – Tampa Bay Ferry and Water Taxi is seeking approval from city leaders to use a landing off a 55th Avenue seawall to drop off passengers for a proposed water taxi route from Gulfport Municipal Marina to St. Pete Beach.
The proposed route would be used primarily to transport employees to the city’s hotel district in an effort to cut down on the number of vehicles on the island. Employees would park their cars at a remote parking lot near the marina, get transportation from the parking lot to the water taxi embarkation point, take a 20-minute ride over to St. Pete Beach and disembark next to the seawall on 55th Avenue, just east of Gulf Boulevard.
When employees get off work in the late afternoon, they would be transported back to the Gulfport marina and transported from that point to their cars. The plan is to target employees of the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, Guy Harvey Outpost and the Sirata Beach Resort.
The service would also be used during the day to ferry tourists from the hotels to Gulfport and back.
“They (hotels) have a lot of problems parking their employees,” said Bob Myers, a spokesman for Tampa Bay Ferry and Water Taxi, during a meeting Jan. 24 at City Hall. “A space that is now used for an employee is a space that can accommodate a visitor.”
Myers said the firm’s boats would pull into the seawall bow first, drop off passengers and pick up others.
“Typically, we’re looking at an eight- to 15-minute operation,” he said.
Myers said the current plan would not require Florida Department of Environmental Protection approval or a submerged land lease.
City Commissioner Melinda Pletcher suggested using a commercial area, such as Dolphin Village or Pass-A-Grille, as a landing point.
“I think because of the close proximity to residential (on 55th Avenue), it might be nice to see if we have other options to consider,” Pletcher said.
“I think it would be appropriate to explore how the residents feel on it,” said Myers. “I’d like for them to take a look at it with an open mind. Would it be better to have a boat come by a couple times a day or more traffic on the road.”
Commissioner Ward Friszolowski, who supports the concept, reminded everyone that ferry transportation from Gulfport was the original way people got to St. Pete Beach before bridges were built. That route took visitors to the Merry Pier in Pass-A-Grille, which he said might be a better destination point than 55th Avenue.
“I feel the invasion of a residential area is going to be a problem,” said Commissioner Rick Falkenstein. “It could be addressed by Corey Avenue (as a destination point). Then you’ve got Dolphin Landings and Pass-A-Grille, which are not residential areas.
Interim Mayor Deborah Schechner agreed.
“I think you might be better served to look at some of the commercial areas because it’s going to be a hard sell,” she said. “I would be interested to see what the comments are when you visit those residential properties. I think the idea of a taxi is good. I know how well it works in Clearwater.”
The idea received support from the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.
In a brief statement to the City Commission, TBBCC Government Affairs specialist Doug Izzo said “the chamber supports alternate modes of transportation.”