20 years crossing the Hudson
NY Waterway celebrates two decades of ferry service
When US Airways Flight 1539 miraculously set down on the Hudson River last January, NY Waterway ferries rescued 143 of the 155 survivors. On 9/11, they were there too, carrying traumatized commuters back to New Jersey after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
NY Waterway has a fleet of 34 boats crossing the Hudson River each day. That actually outnumbers the combined fleets of the local police, fire, and Coast Guard.
NY Waterway is comprised of two companies that work as one: the Port Imperial and Billybey ferry companies. Billybey, which took over routes from Hoboken five years ago, now carries more than 3 million passenger trips per year from Hoboken and Jersey City to lower Manhattan, and back.
“It’s the civilized commute.” – Paul Goodman
Although tough economic times have cut into ridership, the ferry-operators aren’t going anywhere.
NY Waterway celebrates their 20th anniversary on Oct. 16 and has announced an expansion of service in Jersey City, as well as a few other projects.
Ferry service from Paulus Hook in Jersey City to the World Financial Center will increase from a 15-minute schedule to an eight-minute schedule, effectively doubling service beginning Monday, Nov. 2.
NY Waterway is the largest privately-owned commuter ferry service in the U.S., carrying 30,000 passenger trips per day – 8 million trips per year – serving 20 routes between New Jersey and Manhattan, and between Rockland and Westchester counties, and between Orange and Dutchess counties.
Every day, riders from Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City plunk down $5 for a ride across the river into Manhattan.
“It’s a commute, yes,” said Billybey Ferry Co. CEO Paul Goodman, “but the experience is unlike any other way of commuting. It’s beautiful.”
It’s also a fast ride, Goodman said. According to the ferry providers, their passengers’ biggest complaint is that the ride is too short. They also provide complimentary bus service at their midtown Manhattan pier.
Goodman said their anniversary is really a tribute to NY Waterway Founder & CEO Arthur E. Imperatore, “the founder with the vision,” Goodman said.
Imperatore was a waterfront developer who decided that waterfront residents needed a fast shuttle across the river. “A large part of his vision has been realized,” Goodman said.
Imperatore said in a press release, “We are pleased that we were able to work with the Port Authority and NJ Transit to address a critical transportation need. I believe it served its original purpose superbly well and met the needs of the Port Authority, NJ Transit and the public.”
Funding the ferry
“We don’t receive a dime of operating subsidy,” unlike other transit modes, Goodman said. He said fare revenue must cover all operating expenses.
“That’s a formula that keeps fares higher. But we don’t think of the ferry as a luxury,” Goodman said. “It’s the civilized commute.”
The waterborne transportation provider has, however, received “hundreds of millions of dollars” in infrastructure assistance from government agencies, he said.
Their ports and terminals are supported by New Jersey and New York agencies, but NY Waterway pays rents and maintenance costs.
The third phase of restoration for the Hoboken Terminal has begun, and the ferry berth there is slated for an overhaul.
In March, the Port Authority opened a new “state of the art” World Financial Ferry Terminal in Battery Park City.
“The glass enclosed terminal currently handles 4,500 daily passenger trips and is designed for additional passenger volume as the redevelopment of lower Manhattan continues,” according to ferry officials.
For reservations or more information, call 1-800-53-FERRY or check the website, www.nywaterway.com.
By Timothy J. Carroll