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Boston Harbor ferry routes highlight privatizing public transit in the region

New routes would move people around the Inner Harbor and from Quincy to downtown Boston

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Two new commuter ferry proposals from the nonprofit Boston Harbor Now highlight the potential for privatized public transportation in the Boston area.

The group has come up with two new route proposals. One would connect Quincy’s Squantum Point Park with Boston’s Long Wharf North—and perhaps with Fallon Pier on Columbia Point, near the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Trips would cost either $6.50 or $10, and the annual ridership projected is between 190,000 and 412,000.

The other route would basically expand the existing Charlestown-Long Wharf one through the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Fares would be either $3.50 or $6.50 a trip, with annual ridership estimated at 924,000 to 1.6 million.

After a couple of years of researching these routes, Boston Harbor Now is currently focusing on coming up with the operators and the funding. Both could come from the private sector, at least in part.

“In order for ferries to reach their full potential to offer economic and mobility benefits,” Boston Harbor Now’s business plan for the routes reads, “the service must have public and private support when initiated and then it must attract and retain riders to sustain ridership growth over time.”

If the private sector does come to bear some of the costs, these routes would join other essentially privatized public transit in the region.

A privately funded and operated—but publicly managed—ferry runs now between Lovejoy Wharf near North Station and Fan Pier in the Seaport District. And a developer in Newton is proposing a privately funded bus system to spirit residents and workers back and forth from a proposed development on Needham Street.

Is it an idea whose time as come (as Boston-area vehicular traffic gets worse and worse and its mass transit creaks under the strain of population growth)? Or is it a road the region doesn’t want to go down?