Ferry Operators

Ferry or water taxi operations are defined as those that:
  • Have fixed routes between two or more different ports of call (an origin and destination)
  • Provide service on a fixed schedule or on demand within a fixed window of time
  • Are common carriers meaning that they serve the general public at reasonable rates and without discrimination, and/or
  • Are railroad car float operations that utilize a tug and barge combination.

Operational Trip Purpose

Ferries are operated in the United States for a variety of reasons and can be thought of as an extension of the highway system by water. The 2020 NCFO reports 142 operators who have provided details on the services offered with commuter transit (79 percent) and transportation for pleasure/recreation (68 percent) as the two most common purposes for ferry trips. Other reported trip purposes include roadway connections, emergency services, lifeline service (island access to the mainland), and travel to and around a National Park.

Operators Per State

There are a total of 164 operators included in the 2020 NCFO. California and Washington were the states with the most operators based in those states with 15 and 12 operators respectively. Of the 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia, 42 reported at least one ferry operator in the state.

Operator Funding

Of the 133 operators that provided revenue information to the 2020 NCFO, the majority (78 percent) reported that at least part of their revenue came from ticket sales. Of these Operators, a median of 90 percent of their funding came from ticket sales. The second most reported type of funding was private contract revenue with 51 percent of operators reporting this type of revenue. This common source of revenue accounted for a smaller percentage of operators' revenue with a median value of 7 percent.
 128 Operators provided information about their funding sources. Of these responders, at least some revenue was derived from:
  • Ticket Sales - 80 percent
  • Local funding - 16 percent
  • State funding - 28 percent
  • Federal funding - 20 percent
  • Private contracts - 40 percent
  • Public contracts - 13 percent
  • Advertising - 10 percent
  • Other - 13 percent

Non-Response Operators by State

Hover over a state for more information about response rates.
A total of 78 ferry operators (out of the 164 responding operators) reported on behalf of a federal, state, or local government agency. The remaining 86 operators are identified as private.  83 known ferry operators did not respond to the 2020 NCFO.
A note about non-respondents:  
While the data collected covers operations between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019, this data was collected from May to October of 2020. COVID-19 related disruptions to ferry operations are a possible cause of higher than expected non-response rates.

Return to the NCFO Landing Page
For questions about this data or its use, please contact us at: ferry@dot.gov