Rockland ferry service sinks

Ferry service from Rockland County to Lower Manhattan will end May 1, after the pilot program failed to generate enough traffic to support it.

Fewer than two-dozen people ride from Haverstraw to the World Financial Center and Wall St.’s Pier 11 on an average morning, according to reports. Ridership has been low ever since New York Water Taxi added the Haverstraw stop in September 2007, but it had increased 30 percent in the past year, said Tom Fox, president of Water Taxi.

“It’s very difficult to change people’s commuting habits and get them out of their cars, but once we get a customer, we never lose them,” Fox said in a phone interview.

Water Taxi will continue running ferries from Lower Manhattan to Yonkers, though funding is tight on that line as well. Fox said he was looking at the frequency of that ferry, which makes four roundtrips a day.

Rockland County and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. had funded the pilot extension from Yonkers up to Haverstraw with other government grants totaling $7.2 million, according to The Journal News, a Hudson Valley paper. Water Taxi would have needed an additional $3.4 million to continue the service, the paper said.

One problem with government grants is that they don’t provide money for advertising, Fox said. He contrasted the rollout of the Haverstraw service with the rollout of a new Coca-Cola beverage — the latter would be preceded by a marketing campaign lasting several months and costing millions of dollars.

“It’s a lesson in the future that it’s not just the operations [of the ferry service], but it’s making sure people understand the project is available,” Fox said.

Fox thinks the government should continue investing in ferry service to reduce congestion in the city, because those who can no longer take the ferry from Haverstraw will likely return to their cars, he said. The ferry offered the only one-seat mass transit ride from Haverstraw to Lower Manhattan.

— Julie Shapiro