City looks to expand ferry service for commuters

September 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

Ship ahoy, straphangers.

Ridership on the New York Water Taxi line running between Manhattan and Long Island City, Williamsburg and Dumbo is up 10 percent from last year, with hundreds of New Yorkers turning to the private ferry service to save time and avoid subway crowding.

And with more New Yorkers moving to the once industrial waterfront, the city is seeking to expand service, looking to run ferries every 20 minutes at four new and existing locations along the East River by 2011.

New housing developments rising next to the docks will dump thousands of passengers a day on already overwhelmed subway lines such as the No. 7 and L. Increased ferry service could absorb this population shift while harkening back to a once popular mode of commuting — ferry service helped develop Brooklyn in the 19th century.

“East River ferry service will significantly expand and improve the options available to commuters,” said Venetia Lannon, head of New York City Economic Development Corp.’s maritime division.

Subsidies generated by city taxes will keep prices equal to MTA express bus fares, now $5.50, officials said. The development corporation estimates that 1,700 commuters will use the service a day. Additionally, the corporation will finish a $300,000 study of the feasibility of 50 other ferry sites across the boroughs by the end of this year that could in time significantly increase the profile of ferry commuting.

The Staten Island Ferry is the city’s oldest and largest commuting boat service, transporting about 65,000 commuters a day. In 2003, New York Water Taxi started running high-speed ferryboats from the East River stops to Wall Street and East 34th Street, adding a route to Bay Ridge and Far Rockaway last year.

The East River commutes are a quick five to 20 minutes, compared to traditional subway commutes that can run as long as 45 minutes. Tickets are from $3 to $5.50.

“It’s pleasant, convenient and it beats the train,” said Igor Yampolsky, 32, a commuter on the Rockaway service.

Currently the service only runs a handful of times during rush hour, and missing a boat can make for a long wait on a breezy dock.

Ferries have room for up to 150 passengers, as compared to the subway that moves up to a thousand people per train. Building a ferry route is expensive, with the landings averaging around $3 million and the larger boats costing $2.4 million. The development corporation could not say how much operating the expanded service will cost.

To be certain, ferry service is not expected to become a widespread alternative to subways and buses.

“Ferries are really a niche market,” said Robert Paaswell, director of the CUNY University Transportation Research Center.

Still, the city recently received a boost from $47 million in federal stimulus funds that will help renovate ferry landings. Some private developers have also kicked in money for building the docks, Lannon said. The stage may well be set for a boom.

“I firmly believe that the East River could be the Grand Canal of the United States,” said Tom Fox, president of New York Water Taxi. “Psychologically, it’s a hell of a better way to travel.”

 hhaddon@am-ny.com

Ferry routes:
From Wall Street and East 34th Street to:
DUMBO
Long Island City
South Williamsburg
From Wall Street to:
Far Rockaway
Bay Ridge

From Battery Park to Staten Island

From West 39th Street and the World Financial Center to:
Hoboken
Weehawken
And other locations
 
Upcoming routes:
From Wall Street and East 34th Street to:
Greenpoint
North Williamsburg

amNY

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Entry filed under: Brooklyn, Get Wet, Public Waterfront. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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