Recent and anticipated growth in passenger ferry service has been complicated by concerns about air pollution from marine engines that are only starting to be regulated. While marine engines are known to be a significant and growing source category in some locations, sparse data and analytical difficulties have prevented rigorous comparisons of marine and on-land passenger travel. Using data gathered in the San Francisco Bay Area, we model emissions from three passenger ferries and the matching on-land travel that would be used by commuters if ferry service were not available. The results are analyzed parametrically for levels of ridership and induced travel demand, and for new technologies, including selective catalytic reduction and natural gas fuel. Results indicate that under some conditions, passenger ferries reduce some emissions (including particulate matter emissions) relative to the matching on-land service but increase others. Emissions of NOX are particularly problematic––all the technologies examined lead to increased NOX emissions due to ferry commuting. Some of the emissions comparisons are sensitive to mode split, ridership, or induced travel demand. However, NOX emissions are not––ferry commuting always raises NOX emissions, even with the most advanced technologies. Implications for local air quality regulators and for technology development are discussed.

Publication Date



The article can be accessed at the Transportation Research Part D website: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/31153/description#descriptionNote: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


RIT – Main Campus