Reprinted from the Island Free Press
OCRACOKE — The new Ocracoke Express passenger ferry has transported 27,153 passengers since initially launching May 20, and hopes are high that the number can climb to 30,000 before the ferry shuts down for the summer season.
“September 5 is the last day of service, and we’re hoping that everyone gets a chance to ride it,” said Tim Haas, North Carolina Department of Transportation communications officer. “We hope that those who were too busy during the summer – particularly locals – have a chance to ride the ferry before we wrap it up for the season.”
As of Sunday, NCDOT reported that 27,153 passengers had ridden the ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke over the course of the summer, and 1,582 bicycles were brought along for the trip as well.
“Bicycles are a great way to get around Ocracoke,” Haas said. “The fact that people are using that availability is also very encouraging.”
The passenger ferry whisks as many as 149 passengers per trip across the Pamlico Sound, landing directly into Ocracoke Village or the Hatteras ferry docks. Currently, the passenger ferry runs three times per day from both sides of Hatteras Inlet, with morning, early afternoon and evening crossings.
The ferry, M/V Martha’s Vineyard Express, was leased by NCDOT Ferry Division from the New Jersey-based ferry company Seastreak Marine after several issues were identified in the construction of the new state passenger ferry, which was originally slated to begin service in 2018.
It is not yet known whether North Carolina’s own passenger ferry will be ready for service by the time next summer rolls around, or if NCDOT will once again use the M/V Martha’s Vineyard Express for passenger service in 2020.
“It’s too soon to tell what’s happening for next year, but we do have the option to rent the same boat for next season, depending on funds and availability,” Haas said.
In the meantime, NCDOT reports good reviews of the new passenger ferry service, and is hopeful that the total number of passengers will top 30,000 by the end of Labor Day Weekend.
“Those are great numbers, and the response we’re getting from passengers has been overwhelmingly positive,” Haas said. “The (ferry) is definitely something that people are enjoying, and we are very happy about that.”
For more information on the ferry system, including online reservations and the current schedule, visit the website.
This story is provided courtesy of the Island Free Press, a digital newspaper covering Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Free Press to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast.