Out of commission

The John W. Johnson, a Texas Department of Transportation ferry boat, is parked in a berth at the Galveston Ferry landing. 

KEVIN M. COX/The Daily News

GALVESTON — The John W. Johnson, a $24 million ferry boat commissioned in 2011 by the state of Texas, operated for only 15 days during the first five months of the year, according to public records obtained last week by The Daily News.

That number is, by far, the fewest number of days of operation of any of the six boats that shuttle vehicles and people between the East End of Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula.

Between Jan. 1 and May 31, the Johnson made 93 trips, according to records from the Texas Department of Transportation. 

The next fewest trips by a single ferry boat was made  by the Gibb Gilchrist, a boat built in 1973 that had previously been put into a backup role to serve on busy weekends and when other boats are undergoing repairs.

The Gilchrist made 723 trips between January and May.

The records indicate that the Johnson has not operated for more than four consecutive days since November 2013. None of the other five ferry boats had such a gap in service.

At its peak usage, the ferry service moves as many as 190,000 vehicles and 620,000 passengers per month across Galveston Bay. The 265-foot John W. Johnson has the capacity to carry 70 cars and as many as 500 passengers at a time. 

The boat was christened in November 2011, but did not take its maiden voyage until August 2012 because of technology issues.

Just less than a week after its launch, the boat was removed from service because of problems with its engine.

The John W. Johnson was most recently taken out of service on May 11 to make repairs to electronics systems and generator controls. A Texas Department of Transportation spokesman said the ferry is expected to return to service in the near future after the U.S. Coast Guard conducts sea trials.

At a glance

John W. Johnson 

Trips Per Month

 The average number of trips per made by the five other ferry boats operated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula.


 Johnson   Other 5


June 348      286

July 431         315

August 628      260

September 655      190

October 304       249

November 247       243

December 22            283


January    0        286

February    0        266

March       1            310

April          63           296

May         29               347

SOURCE: Texas Department of Transportation


Contact report John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com. Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.

(6) comments


I think property owners in Galveston County should get some advantage when boarding ferries.

Jose' Salinas

Is it true that they've spent almost three times the value of what the ferry cost, in maintenance repairs? And back & forth to Houston?

Paul Steele

What a shame, who ever is responsible on the procurement of this vessel should fix the issues or else we the people will held you responsible & accountable for the wasted money.

Robert Shaklovitz

If that think were a car, the County could get its money back under the Texas Lemon Law.

George Croix

If this were a private business, the faulty equipment would have been fixed or replaced or failing all tossed out and chalked up to bad luck rather than keep throwing good money after bad, with no improvement..
The difference seems to be in whose money is being used.

Jarvis Buckley

Someone's wallet is a little thicker.... Just my opinion.

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