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National Census of Ferry Operators (NCFO)

National Census of Ferry Operators (NCFO)

On a biennial basis, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration's (RITA's) Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) conducts a census of all ferry operators operating in the United States and its territories. The information collected from the census is maintained in a national ferry database containing information regarding ferry systems including routes, vessels, passengers and vehicles carried, funding sources and other information. The numerous detailed data elements are provided in a relational database allowing access and analysis at various levels - operator, route segment, terminal, or vessel. The NCFO was first conducted in 2000 by the Volpe Center, another office within RITA. By legislative mandate (SAFETEA-LU), BTS assumed the role in 2006 and has subsequently conducted the NCFO in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Census Coverage

The geographic scope of the database of existing ferry operations includes the United States and its territories, encompassing the 50 States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In addition to ferry operators providing domestic service within the U.S. and its territories, operators providing services to or from at least one U.S. terminal are also included. Ferry operations that were included within the scope of this census are those providing itinerant, fixed route, common carrier passenger and/or vehicle ferry service. Railroad car float operations are also included within the scope of the survey. Ferry operations that are exclusively non-itinerant, such as excursion services (e.g., whale watches, casino boats, day cruises, dinner cruises, etc.), passenger only water taxi services not operating on a fixed route, LoLo (Lift-on/Lift-off) freight/auto carrier services, or long distance passenger only cruise ship services are not included within the scope of this census.

NCFO Methodology

NCFO Questionnaire

Database Overview

The National Census of Ferry Operators database is a collection of summary tables that provide ferry operation data from a nationwide census of ferry operators along with other sources of ferry data such as the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Numerous detailed data elements describing the services provided by these ferry operators were collected as part of this effort. A relational database format was utilized throughout the collection and processing of the many related data elements, and provides for the reporting of the information at various levels, such as by operator, route segment, terminal, or vessel.

NOTICE: Not all ferry operators responded to the National Census of Ferry Operators in any given year (see the field "Survey Returned" in the Operator data table). Some data fields for non-responding ferry operators have been completed based on information from other sources. Take special note that passenger and vehicle boarding data are blank for ferry operators that did not respond to the census, did not have access to these numbers, refused to report them, or required BTS to keep them confidential.

Data Tables

Operator - The Operator data table contains information about ferry operators and details about their operation.

Operator Segment - The Operator Segment data table contains information related to route segments such as ferry operators who provide service, segment length, average trip time, passenger volume, and season start and end dates.

Segment - The Segment data table contains information about each route segment such as the terminals it connects, the type geographic area it serves, and whether it serves a National Park Service location.

Terminal - The Terminal data table contains information about ferry terminals, their location, and facilities.

Terminal Vendor - The Terminal Vendor data table contains information about other business entities (such as food service concessionaires, car rental companies, facility operator, etc) that utilized the terminal facility.

Vessel - The Vessel data table contains information about ferry vessels such as the passenger and/or vehicle capacity, speed, and fuel type.

File layout for the data tables

The data file schema above assumes you have downloaded all variables for a given table. The data query tool will allow you to download select variables from each table. When downloading only select variables from a table, these variables will be dropped from the schema in sequence.

Data Query Tool

Click here to access the NCFO data tables

The data query tool will allow you to customize your search criteria to suit your needs. You can view and/or download the entire database, or smaller subsets of the data based on the criteria you set. After selecting your data query criteria, a preview window will appear at the bottom of the page. This window will present the result of your query.

Query Tool Instructions

Step 1: Select Query Table. There are six data tables to choose from in this list: Terminal, Segment, Operator, operator/Segment, Vessel, and Terminal/Vendor. You can select an individual table from this list or All data Tables upon which to base your query.

Step 2: Select Years. There are four items in this list. You can select all years or individual years.

Step 3: Select Query Elements. This step allows you to isolate your query to a subset of records from the query table selected in Step 1. For example, if you selected the Terminal table in Step 1, you can limit your query to a single terminal or to any subset of terminals. You can make multiple selections in the boxes by clicking on selections while holding down the Shift key (continuous) or the Ctrl key (discontinuous).

You will notice that the data elements (i.e., terminals, segments, operators, vessels, etc.) in this step are arranged by state. This makes it easy to identify individual items as well as all those within a given state. If you selected "All data tables" in Step 1, you will only see a list of states in this step. In this case the data query may include all states or be limited to a subset of states.

Step 4: Select Query Variables. This step allows you to limit your query to a subset of the variables from the query table you selected in Step 1. Given the size of some of the data tables, it may be more helpful only to retrieve data from the fields on the query table that are of interest to you. You can make multiple selections in the boxes by clicking on selections while holding down the Shift key (continuous) or the Ctrl key (discontinuous). If you selected "All data tables" in Step 1, the query will contain all variables by default and this selection window will be empty.

Step 5: Select Reference Table. The step allows you add additional data from a second table to your query. By default, only variables for the table in step 1 will be queried for the selected items. If you are only interested in a single data table, you can skip this step and go to "View Data". Alternatively, you may select a reference table to add variables from another data table to your query.

When adding a reference table to your query, you will only add cases associated with the selections you made in Steps 1 and 3. For example, if you selected the Terminal table in Step 1 and Alaska Terminals in Step 3, adding the Operator table in this step would draw in all operators in the specified year that had ferry operations in Alaska. If you selected "All data tables" in Step 1, the query will contain all Tables by default and this selection window will be empty.

Step 6: Select reference Variables. This step allows you to limit your query to a subset of the variables from the reference table you selected in Step 5. Note: If you selected "All data tables" in Step 1, the query will contain all variables by default and this selection window will be empty.

Viewing Your Results

Once you have selected the data query options, you can review the results by clicking on the "View Data" button. The query results will be shown below the selection interface. The data can be viewed by using the scroll bar or mouse wheel to scroll down. The system will retain your selections in order to speed up the process if you want to change one or more items for another query. The output tables are interactive. You can sort any table by clicking the column header above the variable by which you wish to sort. Some queries (e.g., all terminals) will produce output too large to be viewed in the data query interface. For these queries you must download the data to view your results.

Downloading the Data

Two file formats can be downloaded from the data query tool (CSV and XML). Click on the button above your preview pane for the file type you wish to download. Downloaded data files are zipped speed of file transfer. You can unzip using WinZip or other software if the pop window does not automatically prompt you to unzip.

Frequently Asked Questions

Summary Tables

Reports

Technical Briefs

Data Source and Contacts

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Census of Ferry Operators (2000, 2006, 2008, and 2010).

Phone: (800) 853-1351