Rhode Island Department of TransportationCelebrates Successful Inaugural Season for Providence-Newport Ferry

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) released final ridership statistics today for its seasonal ferry service, from its inaugural launch on Friday, July 1 through its final run on Labor Day weekend.

According to RIDOT; the service proved extremely successful with a total of 33,221 passenger trips on the ferry between Providence and Newport throughout its pilot season. Even with the recent ferry cancellations due to Tropical Storm Hermine, actual ridership numbers were 17 percent higher than original projections.

“Our seasonal ferry service was created to offer residents and visitors alike the opportunity to travel between Providence and Newport via the jewel of Narragansett Bay,” said RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. “Thanks to this service, we were also able to help ease traffic and parking woes in Newport, and lessen congestion on the roads between these two cities.”

“The success of the ferry is more evidence of a great summer for tourism in Rhode Island,” said Lara Salamano, Chief Marketing Officer of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. “It’s also a testament to the collaboration of the state’s communities, regions, hotels and restaurants. We’ve all worked together to promote the Providence-Newport ferry and the experiences to be had all over the state.”

RIDOT will now evaluate the performance of this year’s service with an eye toward 2017. The operating costs were 100 percent federally funded, using $500,000 of transit funds that can be used only on these types of projects. Options for next season include a longer operating season, schedule adjustments to meet demand levels experienced this year, and other possible ports of call on Narragansett Bay.

The Providence to Newport ferry vessel, named the Ocean State, carries a maximum of 149 passengers and provided three round-trip excursions weekdays (Monday to Thursday), and four scheduled trips each Friday through Sunday.

Approximately 64 percent of passengers traveled on full fare ($10 each way) tickets, with 36 percent taking advantage of the discount ($5 each way) tickets offered to children, seniors, and those with disabilities. The service had 83 sell out trips throughout the course of the season, which represents 19 percent of all 444 total trips.

The busiest days for the ferry were Saturdays. Saturday, July 23 was the peak day with 762 total passengers. The 10 a.m. ferry departing Providence for Newport, and the 6:15 p.m. trip from Newport to Providence were the most popular.

The ferry service garnered national attention, with stories on it appearing in many national publications. It also was mentioned prominently during a Weather Channel “Weekend Recharge” segment on Providence. An early analysis of ticket sales showed that 70 percent of those who took the ferry were from Rhode Island, and about 30 percent from out of state.

The former Shooter’s site adjacent to India Point Park proved ideal as a ferry terminal, and RIDOT observed a high number of walk-ons, and people riding their bikes to the ferry. While RIDOT had an overflow parking lot available in addition to the main lot with free, secure parking for up to 200 cars, it was rarely used even though there was a high demand for service.

Additionally, many passengers took advantage of the free RIPTA shuttle service to the ferry from Providence Station, the Rhode Island Convention Center and Kennedy Plaza.

Information and statistics provided by RIDOT.

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).