TODAY'S PAPER

NYC Ferry service: What to know about the commuter boats

A NYC Ferry heads toward Manhattan from Clason Point Park in the Bronx on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

The slick new boats zipping around New York’s waterways provide an alternative means of transportation for commuters and tourists. Here’s what you need to know about the NYC Ferry service.

What’s new

The city Economic Development Corporation is wrapping up a feasibility study to identify new locations that could support ferry access.

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City Councilman Mark Levine made the case for a West Side ferry route in a letter sent to EDC president and CEO James Patchett. Levine, who represents parts of upper Manhattan, said the West Harlem Piers at 125th Street has existing ferry landing infrastructure that would make a West Side route cheaper and easier to actualize, with additional stops possible at Wall Street and West 39th Street Hudson Yards terminal to the south, at Dyckman Marina farther north in Inwood and in Edgewater, New Jersey, across the Hudson River.

Earlier in October, the Alliance for Coney Island rallied along with business owners and residents who say they were overlooked by the EDC and want the city to extend ferry service to the neighborhood to make up for unreliable bus and subway service.

A Manhattan-bound NYC Ferry.

NYC Ferry's LES route, the six and final planned route, launched on Aug. 29. The service connects Long Island City to the Lower East Side and the Financial District, at Wall Street/Pier 11, with stops at East 34th Street, Stuyvesant Cove and Corlears Hook. The entire ride is estimated to take about 32 minutes.

What’s next

Now that the LES route has launched, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is looking into creating more routes. "There's a lot of parts of the city that want ferry service," the mayor said in August. "We'll be making those decisions by the end of the year."

The city allocated about $335 million to launch the service. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in May that the city would contribute an additional $300 million to pay for a larger fleet and infrastructure upgrades with the hope of carrying 9 million passengers per year by 2023.

How we got here

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NYC Ferry had its maiden voyage on May 1, 2017. Since then, more than 6.5 million people have ridden the ferry service.

Other NYC Ferry routes include Rockaway, East River, Astoria, South Brooklyn and Soundview.

About 18,000 people rely on the ferry network every weekday and some 28,000 riders take advantage of the service on weekends, per the EDC. A one-way ticket costs $2.75.

The ferry service had an on-time performance of 93 percent during the second quarter of 2018, which spanned from April 1 through June 30, according to the EDC.

City schoolchildren have previously entered contests to name some of the vessels, whose monikers include "Rainbow Cruise," “Seas the Day" and "Lunchbox."

Controversy

Certain communities, such as those in Coney Island and Canarsie, have said that they are underserved by mass transit and would benefit from ferry service.

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The ferry, despite carrying significantly fewer riders per year than the subway and buses, enjoys higher tax subsidies per rider, causing transit advocates to call on the mayor to refocus his efforts on the subway.

The subway serves 1.75 billion riders per year with a subsidy of $1.29 per rider, according to the MTA. The ferry is expected to serve 9 million riders per year by 2023 with a $6.60 subsidy per rider. For the past two years, however, the subsidy per rider has been $8.96, Crain's New York reported.

TransitCenter spokesman Jon Orcutt said the EDC should put forth a ridership report that shows the need for more ferry routes before it expands the transit option.

"With per rider costs for NYC Ferry spiraling upward, we’d like to see NYC EDC release a ridership analysis before the city commits to additional routes,” Orcutt said. “The rising subsidy figure suggests newer services are not attracting significant usage.”