NYC Ferry, the city’s marine transit system, saw its highest-ever ridership in the first quarter in 2023 — clocking just over a million passengers on its vessels in the year’s first 13 weeks.
The reported ridership is more than 20% higher than the second-place winter quarter — the approximately 830,000 riders seen in the first quarter of 2020 — just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last July, Mayor Adams announced the NYC Ferry Forward vision to create a more accessible, equitable and fiscally sustainable ferry system. With record numbers of over 1 million riders in just the first 13 weeks of the year, NYC Ferry users are offering a resounding endorsement of this new vision,” said Andrew Kimball, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the ferry system, in a statement. “More than ever, New Yorkers are taking advantage of the efficiency and beauty of travel on our waterways.”
The most popular route, according to EDC, is the East River crossing between Manhattan and Brooklyn, amounting to 37% of overall ferry trips. The Astoria and Soundview lines carried 24% and 13% of riders respectively. Other routes out of Manhattan transport passengers to the Rockaway peninsula and to southern Brooklyn.
All routes terminate on one end at the Wall Street stop on Pier 11.
The ferry, launched in 2017, is showing off its sea legs even after fares were raised from $2.75 to $4 last summer. That came after City Comptroller Brad Lander released an audit finding EDC underreported its already-hefty ferry subsidies by nearly a quarter billion dollars. Lander reported that the city was subsidizing the ferry to the tune of about $12.88 per ride.
Despite that subsidy — intended by former Mayor Bill de Blasio to promote the ferry as another plank of the mass transit system — NYC Ferry’s ridership is much whiter and wealthier than those commuting by subway or bus.
Responding to the audit, Mayor Eric Adams announced that fares would be hiked. While single trips now cost $4 — marketed to tourists and pleasure-seeking riders — a 10-trip pack costs $27.50, retaining the $2.75 fare structure equal to subways and buses. Low-income New Yorkers, seniors, people with disabilities, and students are also eligible for a reduced fare of $1.35.