NYC Ferry starts new route — and contends with crowds, delays

The NYC Ferry started its South Brooklyn route June 1, as operators juggled scheduling to adapt to bigger than expected crowds since the public system launched May 1.

The first month of service attracted around 243,000 riders, some 93,000 more than expected even with an aggressive marketing campaign, according to city officials. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has made the $335 million ferry investment a signature project of his administration, called the big ridership numbers “a good problem to have,” and said a bigger vessel design in the future could be considered.

But delays and long lines, especially at Manhattan’s Pier 11 terminal, were an annoyance to ferry passengers who had welcomed the new $2.75 service. Minor mechanical issues like engine controls had to be worked out by operators with NYC Ferry by Hornblower, and a May 7 oil spill from a Brooklyn electrical substation caused the Coast Guard to impose an East River safety zone that delayed ferries.

Memorial Day weekend brought more long lines, especially for passengers heading to and from Governors Island, the former Coast Guard base now a public park in the harbor. In social media posts for users NYC Ferry issued advisories and apologies for delays, while officials of the city Economic Development Corporation said schedule changes would be tweaked to reduce delays and wait times at terminals.

The start of the South Brooklyn route could take some pressure off too. The Thursday morning startup was festive at the Red Hook landing in Brooklyn, where the maritime community group PortSide New York hosted a free continental breakfast and champagne for commuters at the 172’x31.5’ Mary A. Whalen, a restored 79-year-old coastal tanker that is base for the group’s education programs.

The 86’x29’ Incat Crowther designed ferries, built by Horizon Shipbuilding Inc., Bayou La Batre, Ala., and Metal Shark, Franklin, La., carry up to 150 passengers. Five were delivered for the system’s start-up and will number 20 in all when those orders are fulfilled and six routes up and running in 2018.

The fleet will comprise 16 “river-class” boats, powered by pairs of Baudouin 6M26.3 engines each turning 815 hp at 2,100 rpm, and four deeper-draft variants for the longest Wall Street-Rockaway run, to handle bigger sea conditions in the lower harbor. The first of those Rockaway boats, with 20” additional freeboard and powered by the bigger V-12 12M26.3 engines with 1,400 hp at 2,100 rpm, arrived in late May.

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.

1 Comment

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    One I love the idea of NYC ferry. Two I wish there was a Hudson River route too. Three the frequency of the boats needs to be more. Example instead of the rockaway route to be once an hour during Summer it should be 2x an hour. So far demand has outpaced supply by far. I wan in Sunset Park on Sunday and I had to wait 3 hours to get on the boat. I work for train operations and when there is a big crowd in one place a ferry should have been diverted right away from Sunset Park to Rockaway to clear out the huge line. The boats I believe can carry only 150 people. The boats need to carry at least 350 to 400 people per ride. This will help keep the ferry going.

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