A bill to increase weekend and overnight Staten Island Ferry service cruised to a 46-0 victory in the City Council this week -- an overdue sign of respect for the economic potential of a borough that often feels like a stepchild.
The bill would boost weekend ferry service within six months of signing. And it calls for round-the-clock service -- at intervals of no more than 30 minutes -- in 2015.
That would bring welcome relief to the city's residents with the longest average commute: 69 minutes. It promises especially good news for commuters in the early morning who face some stark choices:
Option 1: Drive to Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge for $15 cash round-trip (or $6.36 with a resident E-ZPass tag), cross the East River on one of the city's free bridges, and shell out a small fortune for Manhattan parking.
Option 2: Take the free Staten Island Ferry, which links up with the lower Manhattan subway nexus. The catch there? The ferry only runs once an hour between 1 and 5 a.m. Staten Islanders who miss the 4 a.m. boat to Manhattan are in for a grim wait. So are those who reach the Whitehall Street terminal at the wrong time in search of a romantic late-night ride across the harbor.
Pretty ridiculous in the city that never sleeps.
Potential Staten Island investors want to make sure that the borough -- which would be the second-largest city in the state if it stood separately -- is easily linked by public transportation to the rest of the city. And boosters of attractions like the Staten Island Yankees and St. George Theater hope better service will entice more to take the ferry over.
The only possible hitch involves cost. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he'll leave the bill for the next mayor to sign. He likes its goal, but worries about the price tag -- $15 million a year. But the bill does allow the city some leeway if it needs more than six months to make the initial service increase. And it gives the city an option to delay the 24-7 upgrade if it proves too pricey.
Both major mayoral candidates -- Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota -- are on record as supporters. Full speed ahead.