Rail fail inspires more ferry business in New York

With persistent disruptions of rail service into New York City, more commuters are looking to the ferry as an alternative, and private operator NY Waterway is ready to answer the call.

The company launched what it thought would be temporary service this month between the NJ Transit rail terminal in Hoboken, N.J., and the West 39th Street ferry terminal in Manhattan in response to an April 3 train derailment at Penn Station. The route has been so popular that the company is making it permanent.

Delays from the derailment persisted for days while Amtrak tried to fix the affected tracks, prompting NY Waterway president and founder Arthur E. Imperatore to offer emergency ferry service to help transit officials deal with overcrowding at the rail terminal. The special route from Hoboken started April 5 on less than 24 hours’ notice and carried more than 4,000 riders holding NJ Transit rail passes. Ridership on all NY Waterway routes shot up as delays dragged on.

Imperatore pioneered the revival of private ferry service across the Hudson 30 years ago, and still has an eye for opportunity.  In September, the Hoboken crossing will become a permanent route.

“Thanks to the dedicated, quick-thinking men and women of NY Waterway, we were able to step up once again and help commuters during a mass transit disruption,” Imperatore said in announcing the plan. “We proved once again that we are always ready.

“We have been considering for some time the need for this Hoboken to Midtown route. The success of this trial by fire proved that the time to act is now.”

Details of the route still are being developed, company officials say. The route will give Hoboken residents and commuters a 12-minute ferry ride to the West 39th Street ferry terminal, where free connecting NY Waterway buses take passengers on several cross-town routes.

On top of the Amtrak troubles, there are serious, longer-term doubts that the Trump administration will come through with funding for new trans-Hudson tunnel connections. In time, that could send more commuters to waterborne routes.

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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