MacDill personnel may be riding a boat to work
By Nick Stubbs
Would a ferry service to MacDill be a good thing?
About 1,700 MacDill workers and servicemembers have weighed in on the question using an online survey form and about 95 percent of those are saying "full steam ahead."
The Glasure Group of St. Petersburg is conducting the survey in conjunction with MacDill to explore the feasibility of morning and afternoon ferry service, said Lt. Colonel Kevin Krause, commander of the 6th Communication Squadron and survey "facilitator."
"It's just testing the waters, so to speak, to see what people think of the idea," he said.
While the survey likely will run the rest of the month, Jeff Morrow, a senior account executive with Glasure Group said it already is apparent the idea is a hit with MacDill personnel and servicemembers. With nearly two-thirds of the wing taking the survey in just the first week, nearly all are in favor of the idea.
"I'd say it is a very significant response and a good representation," said Mr. Morrow. "Whenever you can get that kind of response it's a good thing."
Mr. Morrow said his firm was contracted by Tampa developer Roger Gatewood to explore the feasibility of a Tampa Bay ferry. Shuttling people on and off MacDill is a possible component of the venture, with the ferry being used for pleasure trips and other possible shuttling trips, said Mr. Morrow.
At this point the thinking is that the ferry would dock at Davis Park after departing from somewhere on the east side of the Bay from the Apollo Beach area. Two boats are under consideration, the larger capable of carrying 149 passengers and the other carrying 97. Either boat could run two trips in the morning and two in the afternoon, said Mr. Morrow. The MacDill trips would include only authorized personnel due to security issues, he said.
Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Westermeyer of the 6th Security Forces said the idea does not present any security issues above and beyond the norm and is comparable to processing passengers of the HARTline bus service that shuttles on and off the base.
From the standpoint of passengers, "it might even be safer," said Sergeant Westermeyer, who notes that the odds of an accident on the road are high compared to the less congested waters of the Bay.
Mr. Morrow said he should have final survey results around the end of the month and while there are lots of details to be examined, if other surveys regarding a ferry prove as positive as MacDill's, the ferry service could be running within a year or two. Mr. Morrow could not say what it would cost MacDill passengers to use the service but he suspects there would be subsidies possible as with HARTline, which would reduce costs for riders.
The proposal of a ferry may be coming at the right time for those concerned about rising gasoline prices. Mr. Morrow notes that the majority of those responding to the online survey appear to be living off base on the east side of Tampa Bay and in the Brandon area. In addition to morning and afternoon rush-hour traffic, base workers and servicemembers are looking at spending nearly twice what they spent a year ago in fuel prices to get to and from MacDill.
While ferry riders would not be able to eliminate driving completely since they will have to get to the dock where they boat picks up and drops off, the savings considering rising fuel prices could add up.
As an example, a typical monthly budget with current fuel costs from an Airman living in Riverview is $500 per month in gas and tolls, considering 15 mpg.