Almost everyone likes to travel quickly to where they need to go. Speed is a fundamental need of transit users, but it is a mistake to think speed in urban transit ferry systems is the same as vessel speed.
There are many reasons why fast ferries, with operating speeds of more than 20 knots, are not suitable for urban transit networks in narrow waters, covering relatively short distances. There is a substantial increase in wash at higher speeds and safety risks are also greater.
From a commercial perspective, fuel efficiency declines rapidly at higher speeds and minimum crewing levels, determined by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), are also affected. Speed is one of the risks considered by AMSA in setting minimum crew levels, so labour costs can be much higher on fast ferries.
For all of these reasons, a focus on achieving speed purely by acquiring faster boats is not necessarily a good idea.
A far smarter strategy is to look at the other things that affect how quickly a passenger moves from origin to destination. Here are five ways to speeding up the end to end journey:
1. Gangways: single gangways only allow about 50 passengers to load per minute. Wider gangways and/or deployment of two gangways speeds up passenger loading and reduces variation in transit time.
2. Passenger ingress and egress: better designed terminals which separate disembarking passengers from boarding passengers and better design of vessels to allow free movement of boarding passengers to stops bottlenecks.
3. Vessel manoeuvrability: incorporate steerable propulsion and manoeuvring systems in new vessels to speed up vessel berthing.
4. Align pontoons with vessel line of approach: it might seem obvious, but it is a common error to construct new terminals where vessels must make slow complicated manoeuvres to berth or, even worse, reverse on departure. Where ever possible, pontoons used for intermediate wharves should minimise a vessel's deviation from its path.
5. Integrated regular interval timetables: timetables which ensure timed connections at interchange nodes minimise the wait for passengers who need to include a transfer in their journey. The periodicity of a regular interval timetable can also eliminate berthing conflicts in the timetable.