Throughout history, water ways have been conduits of transportation. Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington are unique locations that sit at the confluence of two majestic rivers, with the City of Portland split by the Willamette River (east to west) and the states of Washington and Oregon (north to south) divided by the Columbia River. The tremendous growth of this region results in expanding transportation infrastructure. The vision and plan presented is to research a new alternate innovative transportation choice that embraces “River City” pride by establishing a passenger ferry service on the Willamette and Columbia rivers, called “Frog Ferry.” Nearly every other major river city in the world has a passenger ferry service and nearly all are investing and growing their services. A passenger ferry service has been pursued in the past and our plan will: summarize lessons from past attempts, explain why the timing is better now, and show how to realize this vision by leveraging best practices of many river cities worldwide. This plan proposes a public / private partnership structure and outlines actions taken to date and actions that need to occur to realize the vision with a start of service in Summer 2022.
The goals for Frog Ferry are to:
- Enhance the region’s livability with an alternate transportation mode.
- Celebrate our Native American heritage and our history of transit by water.
- Activate our river with resilience planning, commuter traffic, and for leisure enjoyment.
- Provide benefits to all: passengers, non-ferry users (car commuters, freight movers), and provide decreased carbon emissions improved air quality.
- Build on the “River City” brand and embrace, rather than avoid, our rivers.
Determine the viability of a safe and sustainable river-friendly passenger ferry service to better connect people to their river and help alleviate traffic congestion in the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan area.
- Customer Satisfaction
- Public-Private Partnership
- Connect People to the River
- Culture Shift
Purpose of “Friends of Frog Ferry”
Friends of Frog Ferry is a 501(c)(3) formed for the purpose of advocating for and supporting the introduction of a passenger ferry system in the Portland/Vancouver region. Key work plan items include organizing and advocacy, public speaking, planning and feasibility studies, and operations and financial planning. If the passenger ferry system concept is proven feasible, Friends of Frog Ferry will work with civic municipalities to identify the best organizational structure to launch and operate a passenger ferry service on the Willamette and Columbia rivers.
Support: Friends of Frog Ferry has convened more than 150 meetings with private citizens, public agencies, ferry service experts, and elected officials working towards the vision of bringing a passenger ferry service to the Metro Region. The Board of Directors for Friends of Frog Ferry is comprised of key people currently part of the Friends of Frog Ferry’s leadership team and, as of early 2019, more than 600 supporters have signed up to move the initiative forward. In addition, past studies and reports of developing a passenger ferry system have been cataloged and referenced, and leaders of past attempts have joined this effort.
As a result of extensive outreach (and because of the strength of the leadership team) community, business, and governmental support has been strong. The Operational Plan will coalesce feasibility study data and outline the needed steps to make the vision of the Frog Ferry service a reality.
Accordingly, the Friends of Frog Ferry is the organization that will lead the development, planning, and actions towards making Frog Ferry operational. The Leadership Team is comprised of private citizens with the support of local and state transit and economic driver-agencies.
Public / Private Partnership
Based on best practices of other passenger ferry service startups around the world, the public-private model has proven to be the most successful and efficient business model. Public entities and officials in the Metro Region support this vision of a ferry service on the rivers, and, as with nearly all public transit programs, there is a required public subsidy to help off-set the cost and it is understood that the public sector will need to be financially supportive on the front end as well as at the launch and for ongoing operations.
Private capital is expected to come from individuals, foundations and businesses as an investment in the community, not as a financial Return on Investment (ROI) model. This is similar to how the Portland Streetcar system started and similar to other public infrastructure support projects such as libraries, cultural centers, and museums.
In Summer 2017, the Frog Ferry LLC was formed and evolved in Q4 2018 to filing as a non-profit 501(c)(3); the mission directly serves to benefit the general public in the Metro Region.
The Friends of Frog Ferry shall operate in accordance with the Articles of Incorporation and adopted Bylaws. A board was formed Q4 2018 with a Chair, President, and Secretary and up to 10 board members. Governance considerations include:
- Fiscal Sponsor: Greater Portland Partnership for Economic Advancement (GPPEA), a 501(c) (3
- Any funds raised must benefit the nonprofit organization
- Donations to Friends of Frog Ferry from the private sector shall be considered donations under the laws of a 501(c)(3) non-profit institution.