One of the Few Profitable Transit Companies in the U.S. — the Bridgeport Ferry: Cameron on Transportation
Public transportation is a money-losing proposition. But Connecticut is home to one of the few profitable transit companies in the U.S. It’s not CT Transit or Metro-North, both of which are heavily subsidized. No, the operation that’s squarely in the black is the Bridgeport–Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, a.k.a. “the ferry.”
“If you tried to start this ferry company today, you couldn’t do it,” says the ferry company’s chief operating officer, Fred Hall. Today’s ferry is a legacy of the 1883 cross-Sound service run by PT Barnum. Hall has been on the boats since 1976 when he worked weekends as a bartender as a “side-hustle” to his advertising job in New York City. In those days they used to run a Friday and Saturday night “Rock the Sound” cruise leaving Port Jefferson at 10 pm. Complete with a live rock band and a lot of drinking (the legal age then was 18), the three hour cruise drew 600 passengers a night. From there Hall was promoted to general manager of the Bridgeport terminal, assistant general manager and finally to vice president in charge of the entire operation. And he thoroughly enjoys his work, commuting from his home on Long Island to inspect the three-vessel fleet several times a week. He’s not alone: the ferry carries almost 100 daily walk-on commuters, crossing in both directions, who are an important indicator of the economy’s strength to Hall.