Two new NYC Ferry routes could boost ridership 50%

Two new NYC Ferry routes set to launch this summer could add around 50% more riders to the year-old public system, which served nearly 3 million in its first eight months of operation.

New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and officials with the city Economic Development Corporation on Monday hosted a tour for community leaders of a new ferry landing under construction at Clason Point in the Soundview section of the Bronx, where one of the new routes is projected to carry 400,000 riders a year to a new Manhattan landing at East 90th Street and existing landings at East 34th Street and the Wall Street/Pier 11 terminal.

Along with the Soundview route, NYC Ferry operator Hornblower will begin operations this summer on a Lower East Side route, connecting Pier 11 with Corlears Hook, Stuyvesant Cove, East 34th Street, and Long Island City, in Queens.

EDC planners anticipate that route could bring in nearly 1 million additional riders annually to the system, paying fares of $2.75 and free transfers, the same price as the city subway. The first four routes that opened in 2017 exceeded early ridership projections by around 34%, some 800,000 more people than expected, according to EDC and Hornblower officials.

That brought some criticism that ferry planners should have expected more patrons, although prolonged problems with the subway system in summer 2017 was thought to have contributed to the high demand as well.

As part of their reaction, ferry operators stepped up their next order for six more aluminum catamarans from Metal Shark in Franklin, La., from the original 149-passenger Incat Crowther design to bigger 349-passenger versions, now under construction.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made the new ferry service a signature project for his administration, touting it as a way to bring equity in commuting for residents in working-class neighborhoods with limited options for getting to work.

“Extending NYC Ferry service in Soundview is essential as we work to connect New Yorkers to job centers and other opportunities throughout the city conveniently and affordably,” said James Patchett, EDC president, in an update issued by the agency Monday. “We’re excited to launch this new transportation option for Bronx and Upper East Side residents.”

The EDC’s original plan mapped out employing 23 vessels across six routes, with an estimated annual ridership of 4.6 million passenger trips annually. That number pales compared to subway ridership, which the Metropolitan Transit Authority counted at 1.75 billion in 2016.

But city officials justified their investment in water transit, estimated at $325 million that year, as a quick way to open easily accessible commuting to underserved communities, boosting employment and housing options as well.

With the new routes coming on NYC Ferry is expanding its workforce from around 250 to 325 personnel, hiring captains, deckhands, customer service agents, ticketing, operations and other positions.

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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