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Ferry Tracking App Sets Sail in Jacksonville, Fla.

The new mobile app JaxFerry tracks arrival and departure times for Jacksonville’s river ferry.

Mobile apps continue to launch to help connect commuters to public transportation like buses, subways and trains. The same goes for a new mobile app launched on Oct. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.

But instead of ground transportation, the app keeps individuals informed on the city’s ferry schedule.

The new free app called JaxFerry, available on iOS and Android mobile platforms, provides real-time information on the ferry’s arrivals and departures. The ferry, which travels across the St. Johns River, carries riders from two local river ports: Ft. George and Mayport.
According to the city’s user interface designer Sherry McGuire, the app, designed in-house, has an interface that displays five basic screens: ferry, ports, schedule, fares and alerts. When tracking the ferry’s schedule, the app displays information like estimated arrival times and scheduled departure times in two formats. For example, one arrival time may be viewed as “11:15 a.m.” or arriving “11 minutes” from now.

To track its location, an auto-vehicle locator unit installed on the ferry determines which way the vessel is headed. By having up-to-the-minute data, City Councilman John Crescimbeni said the information available on the app can help ferry riders plan their travel routes more efficiently.

“The whole desire of this app was born out of, ‘How do we overcome that guessing game?’” Crescimbeni said.

Currently the ferry’s ridership averages about 250,000 individuals a year, and for commuters who need to travel across the St. Johns River, taking the ferry (an approximately 15-minute ride) and traveling by car are the only two options. Drivers need to take a 26.5-mile detour to access a bridge to get to the other side of the river.

While the city is not specifically aiming to reduce traffic congestion, connecting more individuals with real-time ferry information could steer commuters away from traveling over the river by car, according to Jacksonville CIO Usha Mohan.

Prior to the app’s launch, McGuire said ferry information like fares and schedules were listed on the city site, but the site did not offer live tracking of the ferry’s location. Already, the app has had about 1,000 downloads, the vast majority of which were downloaded to iOS devices.

The city’s other efforts in the app development space include the launch of JaxHapps. The mobile app went live earlier this year and gives users an inside look at what’s going on around Jacksonville including information on local sports, music and cultural events.

Sarah Rich is a former staff writer for Government Technology.