Will a water transportation system benefit DC, Wards 7 and 8?

Are ferries a viable option for commuters? The Northern Virginia Regional Commission thinks so. Years ago they proposed the Potomac Commuter Fast Ferry as a potential solution to road congestion, a challenged public transportation system, and emerging commercial markets.

Learn more about the idea Tuesday, July 24 from Noon-1:00 pm on the Kojo Nnamdi Show (88.5 FM or online (click LIVE)). You can join the conversation by connecting with the show: (800) 433-8850, kojo@wamu.org, and @kojoshow on Twitter. Be sure to add @PotomacFastFerr and #potomacfastferry to all social media posts.


What we know about the proposed commuter ferry in the region

You may remember reading about the ferry and seeing the proposed routes in the earlier blog post Comment on the proposed fast ferry services at June 4 community meeting. Not much has changed since that post. We're still not sure how useful a new ferry system would be to residents of Wards 7 and 8, though a clue might be the June 4 presentation (PDF) which focuses entirely on moving people from Woodridge, VA to DC work centers. The proposed terminal at the Department of Homeland Security would exclusively serve DHS employees and contractors.

Several questions (PDF) asked at the June 4 session might be of interest to Wards 7 and 8 residents and stakeholders:

Q. There are several recreational uses of the Potomac River, including boaters and kayakers. Will the ferry service have a negative impact on the recreational use of the waterway?

A. There are multiple areas across the country where commercial and recreational activities coexist in the waterway. This includes the New York Harbor, Seattle Waterfront, and San Francisco Bay. Ferry service and recreational activities are regulated and monitored by the U.S. Coast Guard to prevent interference with one another and allow waterways to be utilized for different purposes. Safety will also be the number one priority for all involved.

Q. The wake caused by ferries can be problematic as they cause disruptions for residents living and using the water, and can cause erosion. How will the wake and wash of the vessels be mitigated?

A. Wake and wash is a concern on the part of ferry operators as it is a liability issue. Newer vessels are now using technology that allows the vessel to travel at high speeds without causing a wake to mitigate their impact without affecting service. The Prince William ferry study demonstrated a wake and wash of three inches. Boaters are just as concerned by the underwater energy generated by ferries, particularly in narrow channels. This matter will continue to be examined as the project moves forward.

photo:  NVRC

photo: NVRC

According to The Washington Times article D.C. might be large enough to support commuter ferries, says study in June of this year,

The D.C. Council, which included $150 million for Metro in its fiscal 2019 budget, offered support for the ferry idea.

“This gets rid of congestion on Interstate 395 and the gridlock and folks wanting to blow up the bridges because they don’t work for commuting,” said council Chairman Phil Mendelson. “From the District’s perspective, we’re 100 percent behind what’s going on here and working with our regional colleagues.”

The article goes on to quote APACC member Anacostia Riverkeeper’s Trey Sherard,

a biologist who coordinates outreach for Anacostia Riverkeeper, says the conservation group backs the ferry idea.

“The more people on the water, the better for the rivers,” Mr. Sherard said, adding that the “brand spanking new” boats are likely to have a low environmental impact.