Study finds Cape May-Lewes Ferry is a major driver of the economy

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A study commissioned by the Delaware River & Bay Authority estimates that the Cape May-Lewes is a major factor in the economy.

The ferry runs at a loss, and the DRBA has worked to reduce the red ink and increase revenues while encouraging the tourism aspect of the ferry. The main source of revenue for the Delaware-New Jersey entity is the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

The report, entitled “The Power of Twenty,” found that every dollar invested in the Cape May – Lewes Ferry operation fueled $20 million of economic activity in the economies of Sussex (DE) and Cape May (NJ) counties.

“We retained an independent consulting group to take an objective look at the Ferry’s influence on the local economies of South Jersey and Southern Delaware, the areas directly served by the ferry system,” Thomas J. Cook, DRBA executive director. “The study determined that the Delaware Bay ferry service had a substantial positive impact. To put it bluntly, the region would lose 4,130 jobs, $152 million in wages, and $236 million in regional value-added benefits if the Cape May – Lewes Ferry did not exist.”

The Ferry’s impact on the region was studied and assessed from several angles, including tax revenue, tourism expenditures, and local infrastructure support. The final analysis shows that the Ferry has a unique and extremely positive impact on the area. Every dollar of net expenditure on the Ferry System stimulates twenty dollars of economic activity—a remarkable multiplier effect.

In addition to the economic study, the ferry has conducted monthly passenger surveys each year since 2015 to monitor passenger trends. This data indicates that ferry passengers spend a minimum of $125 million annually at Delaware Beaches and $144 million annually at the South Jersey Shore towns between Cape May and Atlantic City. In addition, less than 5% of all ferry passengers report driving through the area without stopping for something, even if it’s just for gas or take-out.

The ferry service is based in New Jersey.

Future phases of the study will look at additional benefits such as coastal property values, the tourism value of the Ferry as an attraction, and the value of reduced congestion on roads in addition to other economic factors, and the value provided to other areas of the states. For instance, market research data shows that Atlantic City is one of the top 5 areas Ferry passengers visit after departing the Ferry, and expenditures in Atlantic City were not part of the initial study.

The Cape May – Lewes Ferry System’s economic benefits were conducted by Council Fire, LLC, a certified “B” Corporation based in Annapolis, MD.

The complete CMLF Economic Impact Study report can be found here.

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