Ferry Terminals and Segments

Ferry Terminals

The 2018 NCFO results told us that in 2017 there were a total of 608 U.S. ferry terminals.  Of the total, 56 ferry terminals were serviced by more than one ferry operation.  The Oak Bluffs ferry terminal in Massachusetts was reported by five separate ferry operations, and Pier 11 terminal in New York City was reported by six separate ferry operations.

Ferry Terminals Serviced by Multiple Operators

The northeast, west coast, upper peninsula of Michigan, and Alaska contain the highest numbers of ferry terminals.  In 2017, New York reported 74 ferry terminals, the largest reported total of any state. 

Terminals by State

Map of ferry terminals by state
Ferry terminal ownership and operation can be identified as public, private, or a combination of both.  In 2017, the majority of the ferry terminals were owned and operated by a public entity, the while less were reported as owned and operated by a private entity. 

Number of Terminals by Ownership and Operation

heatmap displaying terminal ownership and operation status
Ferry intermodal connections are defined as any transportation mode accessible within 100 yards a ferry terminal.  In 2017 every ferry terminal at least one intermodal connector.  The majority of ferry terminals (71 percent) reported parking to connect passengers to their personal vehicle.  Local bus service was the second popular connection.  Intercity bus service, as well as local and intercity rail service were reported to have least intermodal connections to ferry terminals.   

Terminal Intermodal Connections, 2017

Ferry Segments

A ferry segment is the direct route that the boat takes between two terminals with no intermediate stops.  The assigned state of the segment is that of the origin terminal.  The majority of reported ferry segments were concentrated in the northeast, on the west coast, and in Alaska.  Half of the total reported ferry segments came from just the top five states.  Those states are, New York (132 segments), Alaska (114 segments), California (104 segments), Washington State (87 segments), and Michigan (61 segments).

Ferry Segments by State

The set of 967 unique segments (excludes segments reported by more than one operator) covered a combined total of 21,815.4 nautical miles with an average distance of 11.7 nautical miles per route segment.  The highest number of reported State route-miles was in Alaska, where 11,360.5 miles were reported, totaling over half (52.1 percent) of the reported route-miles. 
The majority of ferry segments range between 1 and less than 5 miles (27.5 percent).   The second largest group of segments is reportedly less than 1 mile (20.3 percent).  Overall, ferry route-miles in the United States ranged from the distance of 0.01 miles to 595 miles.  The longest U.S. ferry route stretches from Ketchikan, AK, to Bellingham, WA.

Segments categorized by Distance in Nautical Miles

Distribution of ferry route segment distance
The majority of all reported segments are intrastate (84.6 percent), which means that the segment does not cross state lines. The largest percentage of interstate segments, segments that do cross state lines, were in the northeast.  Of these northeastern states, New Jersey and New York had a relatively large proportion of these segments, 27 and 32, respectively.  In addition, there were a reported 7 international segments, that is, segments that either originated or ended at a terminal in a non-U.S. state or territory.

Segment Type by State

Map of ferry route segments, broken down by type
Over 15 percent of the reported U.S. ferry segments in 2017 were identified as being operated to or within the U.S. National Park System (NPS).  The NPS includes those locations that were listed under the official 419 unit designation.  Of the 154 reported ferry segments serving an NPS unit, the majority were reported in New York (37), Michigan (34), and California (23), which also happens to be where there is a high density of NPS units (figure 19).  Most NPS segments operate interstate.
A large majority of the NPS segments, 109 (70.8 percent), provide access to islands.  The length of NPS segments range from 0.02 to 80 nautical miles, while the median length is 8 nautical miles.

National Park Service Segments by State

Map of ferry segments serving national parks, by state

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