MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — There have been talks about bringing a water taxi to Manatee County for years now. Soon, the long-awaited method of transportation will be up and running, but not before the end of summer like some anticipated.
“Where we are at today is finishing up the sea trials, getting all of the certifications needed from the Coast Guard, and then finalizing the enhancements to the three piers that will be involved in the stops,” said Elliott Falcione with the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Falcione is now estimating a fall launch date, and the public is eager for it.
Palmetto resident Yvonne Berhard says she doesn’t visit the beach often due to the traffic congestion. She hopes the ferry will make it more accessible once again.
“I would take it just because I want to go to the beach and I want to avoid all the traffic. I’m very excited about it coming,” said Berhard.
“So far about 61% of the visitors that were surveyed on the beaches said that they would be interested in using the water ferry,” said Falcione.
The service also aims to help get service and hospitality workers to and from the island.
“I think what we are going to try and work out is a special time in the morning for only service workers and a special time in the afternoon for only service workers and maybe we can get 100 people or 100 cars off the road. Realistically, that will probably come in early calendar year 2024,” said Falcione. “Restaurants and hoteliers are struggling to employ workers during February and March, just because the employees don’t want to sit in traffic. If we can help them figure that out, that would be great.”
John Horne, the owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bar believes the ferry will be a part of the solution for staffing island bars and restaurants.
“I think it will work. I think it will get people off the main roads. I think it will open up to more people coming to the island to work that have just said in the past it is not worth the drive. . It really is hard to find people to work on the island. This will also open a whole new area of candidates that will say, ‘You know what, I can live in Palmetto or East Bradenton, hop on this ferry, and be on the island,'” said Horne.
The tickets will cost $8 per person with special pricing for children and seniors. The two vessels, Miss Anna Maria and the Downtown Duchess, hold 49 passengers each. There will be stops in Downtown Bradenton, Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, and eventually Coquina Beach.