» Can ferries play a useful role in the broader public transportation system?
Most major cities are situated along some body of water — usually a river or two, often a lake or the ocean. There’s a good reason for this: waterways played an important role historically as transportation links for people and freight. They also allowed connections across barriers insurmountable by ground-based transportation; in the early 1900s, for example, ferries were the only mode of transport between Manhattan and Northern New Jersey. But new technologies allowing the construction of underwater road and rail tunnels and the general improvement of ground-based transportation systems have reduced the importance of boats for the average commuter in the urban environment.
In some cities, of course, the ferry never died out as a transportation mode — Venice’s Vaporetto water bus continues to be the primary mode of transit in that pedestrian
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