HINGHAM — More than 4,500 people rode the weekend ferries between the South Shore and Boston over the new service’s first two weekends, buoying the MBTA’s expectation that the boats could attract the summer crowd as well as workday commuters.
“The weekend service is off to a great start, and we look forward to watching the ridership numbers continue to climb in the coming weeks and months, as more and more summer travelers learn of this convenient and reliable transportation alternative,” the MBTA’s general manager, Beverly Scott, said last week in an e-mail. “We’re very pleased that a lot of people took advantage of the new service.”
The MBTA launched the weekend service from Hingham and Hull to Boston, Logan Airport, and Georges Island on Memorial Day weekend, and plans to continue it for most of the locations through the Columbus Day holiday, Oct. 13. The service to Georges Island will end after Labor Day.
The schedule calls for 16 trips departing Hingham on Saturdays and 14 on Sundays, with six stops at Hull along the way to Boston, and four on the way back to Hingham on both days, plus a late-night one on Saturdays only.
Boston Harbor Cruises, which operates the boats under an MBTA contract, has provided weekday commuter service from Hingham and Hull for years. But the last time Hingham had weekend summer ferries was 15 years ago, and Hull hasn’t had them for far longer.
“We have seen a great deal of excitement and buzz among our ridership,” said Alison Nolan, a principal at Boston Harbor Cruises. “We received over 7,000 schedules from the MBTA with the weekend service, and we’ve almost run out. That’s how much enthusiasm there is.”
Nolan said the weekend riders are a mix of families and individuals going into Boston to visit places such as Faneuil Hall, the North End, or the New England Aquarium, and others visiting the Boston Harbor Islands.
She said there are also people coming from and going to Logan Airport, and “a small portion” of riders heading from Boston to Hingham to enjoy the restaurants, shops, and movies at the redeveloped Hingham Shipyard.
Nolan said she is curious to see how many people take the ferries from Boston to Hull over the summer to go to the beach.
“I think it’s terrific,” she said of the weekend service.
Ridership numbers provided by the MBTA showed that 3,042 people took the boats over the three-day Memorial Day weekend May 24-26; over the two days of the following weekend, May 31 and June 1, there were 1,521 riders.
The latest available numbers from the MBTA show the average weekday ridership on the South Shore ferries in April was 3,730.
While the MBTA has increased its commuter boat service in Hingham, it stopped its ferry service from Quincy last October. The transit agency determined that it couldn’t afford to repair the sea wall and wharf at its ferry terminal on the Fore River, and is in the process of selling the property for other marine uses.
For the new weekend service, a one-way fare between Hingham or Hull and Boston’s Long Wharf is $8; Logan service is $16, or $8 for those with a valid monthly commuter boat pass.Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.