Boston Harbor Now Holds Water Transportation Visioning Event

Last Monday night atop the roof deck at the newly constructed Pier One waterfront development that overlooks the Boston Harbor President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now Kathy Abbott and a few dozen residents and transportation advocates discussed future plans to bring a harbor ferry stop to East Boston.

Boston Harbor Now’s Inner Harbor Connector Service Plan would add two new routes to link Charlestown and East Boston to the Seaport with ferry terminals at Navy Yard Pier 4, Lewis Mall, Fan Pier and Long Wharf.

The other route would connect Quincy with Long Wharf with off-peak service to Fallon Pier at Columbia Point in Dorchester.

According to the plan released by Boston Harbor Now the Inner Harbor Connector would run every 15 minutes during peak community hours and every 20 minutes during non-peak hours with estimate fares between $3.50 and $6.50.

Abbott is on the record as saying, “As the waterfront continues to change dramatically, more frequent and robust water transportation will contribute a range of benefits around mobility, economic development and resiliency. Ferries offer a regular way for people to experience the joy of being out on the water, creating a deeper sense of engagement and ownership of the Harbor. We hope these business plans provide fresh momentum to partners to collaborate on implementing new service.”

Eastie resident Margaret Farmer, who helped organize last week’s event, said the most common question from the almost 100 attendees at the water transportation event was not why or how but when. 

“This, combined with the commuter apocalypse we had last week shows that water transportation is quickly becoming a necessity,” said Farmer. “The plan currently calls for a point-to point system, instead of a circular ferry, but my hope is the system is so popular it quickly expands.”

However, having only one stop in Eastie has community residents and transportation activists worried that ‘later’ expansion could mean never seeing an expansion of the ferry system.

“Boston Harbor Now’s Inner Harbor Connector Service Plan moves us in the right direction by proposing a multi-stop ferry service, but has critical shortcomings,” said resident Chris Marchi. “Without proposing service at East Boston’s Central Square, Chelsea’s central downtown district, and Charlestown’s End of Yard area, the Inner Harbor Connector Plan fails to address the largest, densest, and least transit-served water transportation constituencies within the inner harbor.”

As an activist in Eastie Marchi said he recognizes the acute nature of the neighborhood’s transportation crisis and the important role that a water transportation options can play in providing important relief.

“I have consistently provided comment at Boston Harbor Now Water Transportation planning events regarding the need for service in these specific locations,” he said. “That these locations also serve environmental justice communities makes their omission particularly troubling. Water transit service which for whatever reason excludes lower income and minority enclaves will exacerbate existing transit disparities and create a negative perception ironically within the very communities which have long been the base of this city’s most strident advocacy for water transportation. Boston Harbor Now’s effort to advance water transit comes at a time when Boston desperately needs to address its long-neglected North Shore transportation crisis. But this problem must be addressed without bypassing the most acute transit needs of the largest number of inner harbor residents. Boston Harbor Now should reassess its ferry service recommendations to include analyses of essential base inner-harbor ferry service which serves and benefits the entire inner harbor.”

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