A ferry is a boat or ship that transports passengers, vehicles, and cargo across a body of water, typically on a regular schedule. They are an integral part in public transportation systems of islands and cities that reside along bodies of water.

A passenger ferry with many stops on a route is sometimes referred to as a water bus or water taxi.

Notable ferry services in the United States

The United States of America has a rich history of ferry services. The following sections highlight some of the more notable ferries in operation.

New York

Staten Island Ferry

Among the most notable ferries in New York is the Staten Island Ferry, which connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Manhattan.

It is the single busiest ferry route by passenger volume in the United States of America. It is free to ride because the state of New York subsidizes it through tax revenue.

NYC Ferry

NYC Ferry is a public ferry system in New York which currently operates seven routes, one of which is seasonal. They are as follows.

NYC Ferry has the largest passenger ferry fleet in the United States of America total 38 active vessels.

Port Jefferson Ferry

The Port Jefferson Ferry connects Port Jefferson, New York and Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was founded in 1883 and is one of the oldest ferries in the United States.

San Francisco Bay Area

Prior to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge, commuting between the North, South and East bays was primarily done by ferry.

However, with the construction of bridges around the Bay Area, commuter ferry used dwindled and, by the 1970s, were primarily used by tourists.

In 1989, following the Loma Prieta earthquake which caused the partial collapse of the Bay Bridge, emergency ferry service was enacted to shuttle commuters from the East Bay to San Francisco.

This catalyst led to a resurgence in ferry services and showed how important a robust ferry system is for the Bay Area.

Ferry services like Golden Gate Ferry and San Francisco Bay Ferry are an integral part of public transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Golden Gate Ferry operates the following routes.

San Francisco Bay Ferry operates the following routes.

Both services are expanding to accommodate the yearly rise in their ridership numbers.

Tourist ferries such as Blue & Gold Fleet and Red and White Fleet also continue to rise in popularity and remain vital parts of San Francisco’s tourism industry.


Washington State Ferries is the second largest ferry system in the world as measured by vehicles transported.

They currently operate the following 10 routes.

In 2022, Washington State Ferries averaged 354 departures per day and carried 17 million riders in total.