Home Staten Island A few thoughts on NYC’s ferry services

A few thoughts on NYC’s ferry services

by Benjamin Kabak

A Staten Island ferry forges forward.

With the chance to elect a brand new mayor for the first time in 12 years staring New Yorkers in the face, the vagaries of electoral politics with a mix of extreme weather-related concerns lead to an outsized focus on some minor issues. When it comes to transportation, we’ve seen candidates obsess about buses, and lately, ferries have garnered some headlines as well. Candidates and representatives just love to talk about ferry service.

Lately, two distinct ferry routes have taken center stage. One involves a current initiative to provide ferry service from the Rockaways to the isle of Manhattan. This route sprang up after Sandy cut off the peninsula’s subway connection, but it’s hardly a new idea. Time and time again, this ferry route has failed due to high operating costs and low ridership. The current service costs just $2 and has seen ridership of around 700 a day. It will be extended through Labor Day, but the city won’t say at what cost.

In the grand scheme of New York City spending, the $4 or $5 million spent on a stopgap measure designed to alleviate the stress of post-hurricane travel won’t make or break anything. It’s worrying to see the city stay mum on costs when ferry subsidies far outpace per-passenger spending on buses or subways. But if the Rockaway ferry is a short-term measure, that’s fine. Budget watchdogs and transit advocates can raise a stink if this goes on forever. That other ferry service, though, warrants more of a look.

Staten Island residents and politicians are calling for expanded Staten Island ferry service, and they’re making a compelling case for it. With a slew of candidates scouring Staten Island for votes, the time may be ripe for a movement toward increased ferry service. In mid-May lawmakers issued a call for added overnight and off-peak service. Right now, ferries operate just once per hour overnight during the week and after 7 p.m. on Saturdays. This past week, the Staten Island Advance’s editorial board picked up the call:

The fact is that a lot of people rely on the ferry during off-peak hours to get them to overnight jobs or return from a night on the town or visiting friends or relatives. They live in the city that never sleeps too. The administration certainly wouldn’t stand for one-hour waits for subway riders in Manhattan or Brooklyn, no matter what the time of day. But it’s only Staten Island, after all, and the members of this administration, who call the Upper West Side or Park Slope and Cobble Hill home, figure Staten Islanders have little need for round-the-clock transportation. Besides, then too, in their eyes, the ferry is primarily a tourist attraction, not a necessary a critical transportation service for city residents…

Another provision of the compromise back in 2004 was that the DOT had to conduct studies of ferry ridership and provide them to the Council. [Assistant DOT Commissioner Kate] Slevin cited low off-peak ridership at several points but couldn’t provide any data. Perhaps the fact that there are a surprisingly high number of people who take the ferry after 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and even after midnight on weekdays explains the DOT’s reluctance to provide the Council with a more thorough ridership analysis. DOT doesn’t want to know how many off-peak riders there really are.

But again, that’s not the point. People should not be stranded in a waiting room for an hour in the self-anointed “greatest city in the world.” All New Yorkers should be able to access adequate, reliable mass transit services from one borough to another. On Staten Island, with no subway, that’s the ferry.

The 2004 compromise mentioned by the paper involved an agreement between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council to increase peak-hour and daytime service while maintaining hour-long headways at night. The City Council had asked for service every 30 minutes, but the Mayor threatening to bring a costly suit to maintain service levels at every 60 minutes. The agreement rested on ridership levels that DOT is hesitant to release.

I certainly feel more frequent ferry service would behoove the city as a whole, and the mayor is pushing forward on a plan to bring a 625-foot-tall ferris wheel and giant shopping mall to within steps of the ferry terminal. Such attractions scream out for more frequent ferry service.

But let’s propose something else: Why not put this effort into some serious planning for a Staten Island subway connection — and one that would obviate the need for any ferry service? As it stands today, the city invests $108 million annually into ferry service. The initial capital costs for a subway to the ferry terminal would probably run upwards of $5 billion — or 50 years of ferry subsidies — but subway service would generate revenue. Fares would be collected, and the one-seat, high-speed connection would lead to an increase in property value and tax revenue for the city too. A more rigorous study for the ridership and cost projections could boost this argument, but you see where I’m going with it.

New York City has such a tenuous relationship with its waterfront due to years of development patterns that prioritized heavy industry and cars over people and job centers, but ferries still have their roles to play. It seems that Staten Island needs more frequent ferry service. With the increased attention over the next few months on what is often a forgotten borough when it comes to transportation, perhaps now the stars will align for a few more boats.

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Boris July 7, 2013 - 11:48 pm

Considering that a subway line would replace the (heavily subsidized) express buses as well, the annual investment that can go towards a subway line is considerably more than $108 million.

The operating vs. capital cost argument is an interesting one to make, and it applies to almost everything in transportation the city does. Generally, we prioritize spending more on operations today instead of taking that money and converting it into bond payments for a large capital project tomorrow.

In the long run (20-30 years), Staten Island North Shore light rail is cheaper than the busway option. A subway line to SI is cheaper than the ferry/express bus combo. Almost any subway extension in the city is cheaper than running the feeder buses currently operating in its place. When it comes to roads, DOT is content with cheaper patching or resurfacing that lasts just a few years instead of rebuilding the roads properly so they wouldn’t get sinkholes and huge potholes in the first place.

Unfortunately, both the politicians and the agencies prefer to think short-term, because it suits their purposes.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 2:17 am

Not sure the financial argument for replacing the ferry with a subway is even that good. At least if you only stop there, it might not be that good. At 4%, annual payments of $105M/year for 30 years gets you under $2B to spend today.

Hell, though, they should charge a subway ride for using the thing. At least it could support NYCTA.

Eric July 8, 2013 - 9:44 am

True. But a subway line allows for and attracts much higher ridership. If there is significant upzoning along the line, it would be worth it.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 11:38 am

Yeah, not saying it’s an inherently bad idea (I’m inclined to be for it, really), but the finances suck.

If you ask me, it needs to come with at least bringing the Staten Island subway network – currently nearly non-existent – up to Queens’ level, or it probably is just blowing a few billion on a lateral improvement.

And if we’re going to do this, priority #1 should be a link from Manhattan, maybe via the SAS. The Narrows should be secondary, for linking SI to Brooklyn.

Sharon July 8, 2013 - 4:28 pm

And property values along the line would rise. Too late now but I always thought a subway o is with a stop on govenors island would be perfect. Develope a casino on govenors island with a small tax dedicated to paying off the subway bonds. Plus you would have large ridership to the casino that would generate more money to pay off the subway.

Nyland8 July 8, 2013 - 6:43 am

It’s unclear what sort of “high-speed, one-seat connection” you’re envisioning Benjamin, but according to Google maps “directions”, at 2AM the average mass transit trip from roughly Whitehall St. Manhattan to 95th Street Brooklyn will take well over 40 minutes – in some suggested permutations, up to 48 or more. With the shortest possible subway expansion across the Narrows, add another half-dozen stops to St. George, and you’ve got at least a full hour of off-peak subway journey from northern S.I. to southern Manhattan – coincidently, about the waiting time for the off-peak ferry service.

Since most sane people who would commute by ferry would know the schedule – and not show up just as one was pulling away from the terminal – and since the ferry ride itself only takes about 25 minutes point to point – then even with no change in ferry service whatsoever, the ferry would, in most cases, still be an improvement over a subway connection across the Narrows.

Hardly a compelling reason to expand subway service to Staten Island.

If a person happens to be traveling from the St. George area to the financial district in Manhattan, no realistic subway expansion will ever “obviate the need for any ferry service”.

Given that the borough itself has never been a strong mass-transit advocate, it seems unlikely that, in the eyes of the OIMBYs, they will ever be qualified for $5 billion “high-speed, one-seat connection” to anywhere.

That said, “a few more boats” is probably a good idea – especially if those boats are smaller, cheaper and faster than the behemoths that currently ply the harbor. If more frequent off-peak ferry service is really what’s called for, it certainly shouldn’t require running the current fleet at only 10% capacity at 2AM. If they want 15 minute departures, then a few ferries 1/10th the size of the big boats might be a solution. Instead of ferries with capacities exceeding 4,000 people, they should operate ferries with capacities over 400 people.

Benjamin Kabak July 8, 2013 - 9:22 am

If we’re going to spend money to connect Staten Island via subway I would do a thorough dive on a trans-harbor tunnel instead of a trans-Narrows tunnel. A one-stop trip from the ferry terminal in SI to Whitehall would do amazing things to Staten Island as a place to live.

Otherwise, smaller boats for overnight service are a no-brainer.

Chris July 8, 2013 - 6:59 am

As much as I think that NYCT should bite the bullet and extend subway service to Staten Island via an overpriced tunnel, there’s a better way to expand land based transit to Staten Island – Get the Port Authority to take over the SIR, and then connect the PATH system to Staten Island. Both SIR and PATH are considered railways by the US Government, so the legal paperwork will be much easier to manage. Of course, this would involve rebuilding the North shore link – but the PA loves pissing away money already. So why not on a project that would make sense for the PA?

SEAN July 8, 2013 - 9:31 am

Curious – how would you extend PATH to Staten Island, via Journal square & Bayone?

Ferries may not be the most cost effective form of public transit, however it’s still an importent part of the transit network over all & shouldn’t be forgotten about.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 12:44 pm

You don’t. PATH is way past capacity as it is, and no Staten Islander wants to travel through another state to get to Manhattan. And it totally leaves out Brooklyn, where there is a lot of commuting. Keep in mind also that, every year, a lot of people from the other boroughs (particularly students at the College of Staten Island) commute TO Staten Island, so there’s definitely a need for faster ferries or, ideally, a cross-Harbor tube.

Mike K July 8, 2013 - 1:48 pm

I have seen quite a few Express Buses from Staten Island in the XBL in NJ in the mornings.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Taking a one-seat express bus ride thru NJ is not the same as a two-or three-seat trolley/bus/PATH ride on a slowpoke train going over the Bayonne Bridge and winding its way thru Hudson County dear. And there’s no way the Port Authority will extend the PATH to SI, since the PA bridges between the Island and NJ are cash cows for the agency.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 3:30 pm

Extending PATH might just make them bigger cash cows if it actually does anything at all to reduce the amount of peak traffic attempting to use the bridges (which I doubt, though you seem to assume as much). It’s paradoxical, but more efficient traffic might mean higher throughput on the bridges, which means more revenue.

Anyway, the PA should probably be abolished. They’re dicks.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 1:55 pm

Well, in an ideal world, how about via a downtown street from the WTC terminal? There is no reason for there to be a terminal there.

Not sure it’s technically feasible at this point though, but going through NJ just seems absurdly roundabout.

g July 8, 2013 - 11:33 am

I don’t think PATH has the capacity to spare during peak hours in any of their tubes for a Staten Island branch to see meaningful service.

Ben is right that a trans-harbor tunnel(possibly with a station added for Governor’s Island) is the optimum, albeit most expensive, option.

llqbtt July 8, 2013 - 12:18 pm

If all the warring tribes can agree on putting this together, HBLR extended and becoming the north shore light rail all the way from St George to that shopping area outside of Travis.

That brings SIers right to the doorstep of Manhattan and in via PATH or (fast, much)shortened ferry ride. Whilst it may not fully replace the SI ferry or address the South Shore (already served by SIR) it at least provides a real, reliable alternative to a good audience especially if park and rides were to be built at key stations.

Hank July 9, 2013 - 9:31 am

That trip is a loser, time-wise for travel to Manhattan. Why take a train an extra half hour and still need to transfer?

Bolwerk July 9, 2013 - 11:10 am

Yeah. Hell, I always complain about bus masturbaters, but there is train masturbation too. Some people think all people need is a train, and nothing else matters (like time).

A train to SI is a fine idea, but it won’t get people to Manhattan comfortably if it doesn’t go under the harbor to Lower Manhattan. However, SI-Brooklyn trips and SI-NJ trips (or even Brooklyn-NJ trips) are all probably worthwhile too.

Hank July 9, 2013 - 9:28 am

SIR is NOT a railroad, and is not under FRA oversight. Hasnt been since the early 1980s. PATH is a long way from Staten Island, and frankly, any rail connection via New Jersey will take longer from most parts of Staten Island than the current ferry connection. The only true way to make a rail connection from Staten Island to Manhattan feasible time wise is directly across the narrows.

Benjamin Kabak July 9, 2013 - 9:43 am

I still do not believe that a cross-Narrows connection is the only true way to make an SI-Manhattan trip feasible. That’s still too long of a travel time for anyone coming from Staten Island.

Larry Littlefield July 8, 2013 - 9:18 am

You forgot the most important ferry issue: the size of the boats.

Running those huge boats overnight probably costs $hundreds per passenger. Politicians on Staten Island probably feel that people in Brooklyn should have their public schools eliminated to pay for personal city-financed limosine service for each of them. That would actually be cheaper.

The city has once proposed hiring the private ferry companies to run smaller, cheaper boats overnight. Which would make sense. But the ferry jobs are the patronage machine of the Staten Island Democratic Party, and those workers wanted to hold the city hostage, so that was scotched.

The same offer should be made. I’m tired of being blackmailed, by Wall Street, by the public employee unions, by Generation Greed, by everyone who believes the serfs should be made to pay more for less.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 12:40 pm

They don’t run those huge boats overnight. The run the much smaller Alice Austen/John Noble class boats, which are usually very crowded owing to their relatively small size (kinda like what running a three-car train on the Lex IRT overnight would be).

Larry Littlefield July 8, 2013 - 1:34 pm

They wouldn’t be crowded if they were running three times as many. Thus the proposal to contract to use the smaller, cheaper private boats for more frequent overnight service.

BTW, Staten Islanders aren’t the only ones plagued by infrequent service overnight. I was on a flight home to JFK last night, due to arrive at 9:10, but after being told to circle it was eventually forced to land at Newark at 10:15. Rather than let people off, the airline insisted on refueling and flying on to JFK from there.

When we finally got there about midnight (after baggage claim) there was probably an hour line for the few cabs left. So I took the Airtrain (once every 15 minutes) to the A train (once every 20 minutes) to the F train (once every 20 minutes), had worse than average luck, and took 2 hours to get home.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 2:04 pm

Yes, a private company running boats every 20-minutes all night would be a cash cow for the city LOL. Private transportation companies had their day in NYC, and they lost money hand-over-fist for 50 years before the city finally took over. And although a small part of Queens (JFK/Howard Beach) is hard to travel to/from in the evening, ALL of Staten Island has crap transit options 24/7, so your analogies don’t quite equate.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Where did he say it would be a cash cow? He said it would save money, which is probably true given the scope of his comment. He didn’t say it wouldn’t still lose money, he said it would mean losing less money.

And there are plenty of global precedents for profitable transportation, whether privately or publicly owned.

Larry Littlefield July 8, 2013 - 3:03 pm

If you charge zero, you aren’t going to make money.

The cost increase from paying the private companies to run more frequent overnight service would be less than running the large city boats more frequently.

The city could also buy small boats. But it would have no use of them doing the day. Whereas the existing ferry providers would already have the boats, so city contracts would be gravy and bid cheap.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 3:16 pm

“The cost increase from paying the private companies to run more frequent overnight service would be less than running the large city boats more frequently.”

You have some concrete figures to back that up, or do you just make stuff up off the top of your head and hope it will come true? And once again, there are no large boats running at night. The boats they run on overnights hold 1280 people; not exactly the QM2 is it?

Sharon July 8, 2013 - 4:34 pm

But the people moved there with full knowledge they would need to drive. They have tons of transit options it is called roads and cars. Can’t stand this everyone needs to ride on a tax payer subsidized union boss enriching government run transit system. Everyone on si knew before they bough what thier transit options were.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 7:20 pm

Like people who die in plane crashes know the danger of flying when they purchased their tickets? Man, you are a first-class douche.

BenW July 8, 2013 - 10:43 pm

Wow, Sharon decided to analogize transit inconvenience to air crashes? And not just that, but make that bizarre analogy while they’re still cleaning up the debris from a fatal plane crash? You’re right, only a massive douche would do that.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 8:28 pm

There is no benign alternative here: if you really think cars aren’t heavily taxpayer subsidized, you either just hatched out of your chrysalis yesterday and don’t know how full of shit the Reason Foundation is, or you’re a fuckin’ idiot.

Eric F July 8, 2013 - 9:39 am

“New York City has such a tenuous relationship with its waterfront due to years of development patterns that prioritized heavy industry and cars over people and job centers, but ferries still have their roles to play.”

Commercial enterprises and water transportation naturally gravitated to the waterfront. I don’t think this was some sort of development “decision”. In fact, the waterfront tended to be ugly and considered an undesirable place for residential development, not just in NYC, but also in London, Boston, you name it. It seems perverse to have an auto impound lot on the water in Brooklyn, or a cement plant on the water in Manhattan, but only if you don’t understand the context of what the waterfront meant to prior generations. Notably, Park Avenue was viewed as the most desirable street in NYC in part because it was geographically furthest from the water. After de-industrialization and contanerization, the “decision” made in recent years is to cordon off the waterfront for park land. That viewpoint has some quality of life benefits, but also leaves what has become highly desirable land fallow from a tax base perspective. It would have been better planning, in my view, to combine parkland with development on the model of Batter Park City.

Anyway, the notion that NYC recently “discovered” its waterfront because the current generation or so is more enlightened than past ones is just not correct. The waterfront was a workhouse and only when the workhouse disappeared could a Canary Wharf or modern Williamsburg be established.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 12:25 pm

I don’t really disagree with this, but it most certainly was a <quote type=”scare”>developmental decision</quote>, and one of the things that probably stunted the city’s resurgence sooner was its inability to recognize the waterfront wasn’t going to be that kind of workhorse again. At least into the 1980s, the policy was to attract industry. Meanwhile, regulating land use goes back centuries in the English-speaking world, and even NYC zoning goes back to 1913. There was never a “free market” for land; it was always a very proprietary concept, for better or for worse.

al July 8, 2013 - 2:22 pm

Waterfront-> material handling-> landfilling waste dumping sewage-> flooding waterborne disease/malaria-> stiff winter winds-> undesirable locations to live.

JJJJ July 8, 2013 - 10:06 am

Lets talk about $10 tickets for a 5 minute ride across the Hudson. That is insane.

D in Bushwick July 8, 2013 - 11:01 am

Can’t we just give Staten Island to New Jersey? The residents vote and act far more like New Jerseyans anyway.
They very much have a suburban car-based mentality which will always be at odds with NYC.

Larry Littlefield July 8, 2013 - 12:02 pm

Do we ask for Hudson County in return? Then PATH could become part of the subway system.

al July 8, 2013 - 2:33 pm

Is Hudson County a net contributor to NJ state coffers or a net drain? If its a drain then there is a small opening.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 12:48 pm

What is it with these spectacularly unoriginal comments about “giving Staten Island to NJ” especially from a Bushwick dolt from Ohio? Richmond County has been a part of New York since the colony was founded in the 1600s, has been an integral part of NY State since it became a state, and joined to become part of Greater NYC since 1898, and joined the city at the exact same time as The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens joined with Manhattan to form the current city. Don’t be such an ass and try to come up with something original (and intelligent) for once.

Mike K July 8, 2013 - 1:50 pm

Quite a few people living in Bushwick were raised in Southern Brooklyn and just cannot afford to live there anymore now that they’ve grown up.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 2:08 pm

And then they turn around and say something stupid like “give Staten Island to New Jersey” because they’re are many historical precedents where one state just miraculously gave a county to a neighboring state for no good reason. Something about living in Brooklyn must make it easy to say dumb things all the time LOL.

al July 8, 2013 - 2:27 pm

It requires an act of Congress. There was a proposed land swap between Utah and Nevada. It passed the House of Rep. but died in the Senate.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 3:17 pm

So like I said, no precedence.

al July 10, 2013 - 3:15 pm

That was precedent. It even goes to the level of state-federal protocol. The states also negotiated land borders after the Revolution. As new territories became states, borders were frequently adjusted with state input.

Karm July 8, 2013 - 7:07 pm

Yeah – that’s ppl who have nothing valuable to input or are ignorant of history. reminds me of the old Jamaican proverb “empty barrels make the most noise”

Walter July 10, 2013 - 12:00 am

Actually agree with what you said, but for one thing: The Bronx was annexed to the city in chunks between 1874 and 1896. It became it’s own county in 1914. But as I’ve been told many times about my borough, it’s the Bronx, it’s only 3 times as big as Staten Island, and no one cares.

Mike July 8, 2013 - 11:41 am

It’s absurd that the SI ferry is free. If most riders paid a base subway fare, it would cover 2/3 of the subsidy. A double fare could probably turn a profit.

Benjamin Kabak July 8, 2013 - 11:43 am

This is the other side of the argument. If SI reps want more ferry service, let’s start charging for it so it can, in part, fund itself.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 12:57 pm

Like the NYC subway/bus system pays for itself? Staten Islanders already pay the same fare for public transit as the other four boroughs, except there’s no subway option (or even a local bus to Manhattan; you need to take a $6 express bus ride).

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 12:01 pm

No it wouldn’t. At $2.50 times 20,000,000 discrete rides, it would bring in about $50M, or less than half the operating subsidy.

A double fare would come close and be nice, but good luck getting that, since it would still probably have to (at best) share the revenue with the subway/SIRT for most trips.

And ya gotta figure, some people just ride it because it’s free.

Eric F July 8, 2013 - 12:13 pm

I suppose they could charge for late night trips, maybe even at a substantially higher rate, and use that money to more or less pay for the late night service. I’m saying this from a rationality perspective, though I’m sure a $5 fare from 10 pm to 6 a.m. or something would cause mass dissatisfaction.

Where I figured the ferry could make some real money was if there was a nice retail/restaurant component to the Whitehall terminal. I feel like every European spends at least 15 minutes of his/her life in that place, but there’s more or less nowhere to drop a few bucks in there. The ferry is part vital transport link, part Disney ride for tourists, and that latter component is not really capitalized on.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 12:35 pm

Re charging: the problem is peak riders often want to at least occasionally come back off-peak (e.g., to catch a show). Or just want the flexibility if something comes up. Off-peak availability does support and improve peak ridership. It’s the same problem the commuter railroads have.

Re retail: how many tourists even take the ferry? I suggest it to people for a good view of the Statue of Liberty, but it doesn’t seem to be of much use otherwise. Of course, it’s more like Penn Station than glamorous GCT too there.

I think Ben is right. The overnight solution, at least to start, is just use smaller boats.

lawhawk July 8, 2013 - 2:26 pm

The Ferry used to have a $.50 fare, which was eliminated in 1997 after Rudy sought more votes on Staten Island. With few other viable mass transit options, the fare has remained free.

If they reinstituted the ferry fare (with free transfers to NYC subway/SIR), then you get the illusion that the service is subsidized except in those instances where the ferry is the sole mode of transit (no transfers on either end).

If it became its own standalone fare, the $2.50 would translate into roughly $64 million per year. Not enough to fully subsidize service.

The real issue is that off peak service is lacking and the City lacks viable options at that hour. They either need to run the Alice Austin class more frequently, or need to procure small ferries to operate more frequently in lieu of the Austin class. The backdrop to that is that the City is trying to consolidate the number of ferry classes, not expand them. They’re trying to phase out the older boats in favor of newer more efficient ones.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 2:27 pm

Ride the ferry between 11am and 8pm and see how many tourists there are. Sometimes I think they outnumber the Staten Islanders! And then they walk r-e-a-l s-l-o-w getting on and off the boat and make the boats 5-10 mins late, which is very annoying if you’re trying to catch a bus/train on the other side.

Eric F July 8, 2013 - 2:33 pm

Yup. It’s literally mostly tourists during summer non-rush hours, and it’s BUSY. I have no idea why the city spent all that money on the ferry terminal but didn’t incorporate some way to get money out of this demographic.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 3:20 pm

Totally. Even a NYC resident pass ($1 per ride) and a non-resident “tourist” pass at $2 or $3 a ride would be cool. Of course, you’d have to come up with a fare control system, vending machines, turnstiles, etc, so it may not be worth the extra $$ considering how notorious NYC is at such things ($3 billion dollars and 20 years later LOL).

Chris C July 8, 2013 - 4:36 pm

As a tourist I’ve done the ferry a few times – not to get a good view of the SoL it’s really not a good view – but to get a good view of the skyline of the city and to get some sea air!

I’ll probably get criticised for admitting it but I get off the ferry and then just get back on the next one back.I’ve never actually done anything else on SI!

As to would I pay to use the ferry? I’ve always gotten a weekly pass so to me it’s ‘free’ and I always tell other people visiting NYC to get one too rather than pay as you go.

How many SI residents have unlimited ride metro cards? It would not make the MTA any more money by charging a ferry fare unless it was over and above the cost of a normal pass. And that won’t get a lot of support.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 7:23 pm

The ferry is not run by the MTA (a state agency) but by the NYC Dept of Transportation. Not only do you guys not live on SI and ride the ferry, but you have no clue which agency runs the boats. Gotta love blog commenters…

Chris C July 8, 2013 - 7:31 pm

I did say I was a tourist – you know those pesky people who come to NYC and spend money and help the economy, paying sales, food & liquor and hotel taxes etc and helping to employ people.

As far as I was concerned the ferry is run by the MTA.

So it’s actually the NYC Department of Transportation? but who cares who runs it. My point is still valid.

As for loving blog commentators I’ve not seen you on here before yet you presume to make comments on other posters??

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 11:48 pm

God, you’re not even from NYC? Please, go away and let the adults who know/live in NYC have a discussion…

BruceNY July 9, 2013 - 2:13 am

Be nice!

BenW July 10, 2013 - 10:19 am

I’m sorry, on what planet are you behaving like an adult?

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 11:15 am

REAL New Yorkers don’t want outside perspectives! Hurr!

D in Bushwick July 8, 2013 - 12:16 pm

But adding $50 million to the operating budget would certainly help. If a $2.50 fare were added, would 30-day unlimited cards be honored effectively adding no additional revenue since most SI commuters likely get on the subway anyway?
Or would it be an additional fare similar to the Airtrain?
Either way, the free ride needs to end.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 12:37 pm

I’m fine with ending the free ride, but I think it should just be integrated into the subway for fare collection purposes. It would bring in a little revenue, and at least contribute to SIRT/Subway a little at worst.

But it’s definitely not a panacea. I suspect bringing in $50M is about impossible, since you can’t logically attribute it to SIRT alone, and I think a double fare is (rightfully IMHO) politically impossible.

Karm July 8, 2013 - 6:58 pm

It’s free because of the lack of rail transit…

Phantom July 8, 2013 - 12:49 pm

There are a certain number of people who live in St George and who work in lower Manhattan.

They have free commuting for life.

I know someone who does this.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 2:24 pm

Yes, you know one person who does this. I lived in St. George for years and knew of maybe two people in my building (200 units) who did this. So there’s likely about 98 people in all of St. George who don’t pay for a commute to downtown. Otherwise, there are 70,000 commuters every weekday who commute via ferry to Manhattan, then another 50,000 Islanders who pay $6 a pop to get to Manhattan via express bus. But hey, those 98 St. Georgians are what’s screwing up the city, no?

Phantom July 8, 2013 - 8:31 pm

The $6 pop is a sweet deal too for the luxury always get a seat fast buses. As is the ” no fare ” SI Railway for those who don’t get on or off at St George.

You guys are always moaning and complaining, despite your many sweet deals.

Even when you get Select Bus, you moan and sabotage that for no reason. Can’t have better buses now. Better to complain.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 11:51 pm

Yes, not having a subway is a sweet deal. And if you think MTA express buses are luxurious and we always get a set, well then i’d hate to see what you think ratty ride is like.

Phantom July 9, 2013 - 6:53 am

I’ve taken them. It’s a luxury service, much better than what most rush hour commuters use.

And SI does have a” ” subway ” in the SIR.

If you had full subway that went to Manhattan, the people there would very quickly lose the ” small town feel ” that they claim to like, with many more high rises built. They’d complain about that.

Whatever happens, the coddled SI professional complainers have an endless reason to complain about everything. You could give them individual helicopter service to Times Square for $2.25 and they would find a way to complain about that. I do not think that they represent most Staten Islanders eiher.

llqbtt July 8, 2013 - 12:23 pm

Like in the olden days, charge a nominal fare, somewhat less than the subway, but a fare, say $1.00 per trip.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 1:44 pm

Good idea, but how do they collect the fare? Part of the reason behind eliminating the fare was that it cost a lot of money to maintain the turnstiles and have somebody on duty to make change for the 50-cents they were charging. Even if you use a farecard, you need somebody to install/maintain the fare control system and machines to dispense fare cards.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 1:56 pm

I say, don’t bother until a new fare collection system comes out to replace MetroCard. Then bother, sometime at the end of the decade or in the 2020s probably.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 2:06 pm

By then NYC will be in the middle of another fiscal crisis and the ferry will be the least of NYC’s problems LOL.

Patrick July 8, 2013 - 12:25 pm

Ferry service in and around New York is lacking in general. We have crushloaded 7 trains going through the Steinway tubes at capacity and a nearly empty East River Ferry running almost directly over it. (partly beacuse of only half hourly service and a $4.50 fare)

The rivers offer a great source for expanding the city’s transit infrastructure. Alleviate congestion on the far East Side with an affordable ferry that makes stops all the way up into the 100’s.

The LIRR can expand service to Long Island City and ferry passengers across to East 34th Street or straight downtown to Pier 11/Wall Street and add service for the East Side and Wall Street commuters.

Cities around the world operate extensvie ferry services to great successes. Why should New York be any different?

Benjamin Kabak July 8, 2013 - 12:28 pm

If you do that, you also have to fix the problem of access to the waterfront. It’s great to take a ferry from LIC to 100th and First Ave., but then you’re only at First Ave. with a slow bus or a long hike to the job centers (Mt. Sinai) or attractions (museums) nearby.

Bolwerk July 8, 2013 - 12:42 pm

New York shouldn’t do it because there probably isn’t ever going to be any great demand for it. New York isn’t Hamburg or Amsterdam or Venice with a dense inner-city canal network, so ferries will always be stuck serving residential/park-ridden waterfronts. Manhattan fronts two meaningful waterways, and most of the existing canals are Superfund sites. Ferries will always be a niche mode here, maybe more useful in the summer than in the winter.

Jonathan July 8, 2013 - 12:45 pm

Ferry service along a lateral shore like the Upper East Side is only half as good as subway service because half of the 500-meter-diameter circle that circumscribes walking distance from the ferry station is underwater.

pkyc0 July 8, 2013 - 4:14 pm

The ERF from LIC can certainly use some improvements.

Once the park opens, it should eliminate the detour and cut down on walk time.

There should also be some limited stop/express service to wall street. Making 4 other stops before getting to wall street makes it uncompetitive vs the subway.

And more LIRR trains to LIC, which is across the street from the ferry, should attract people from LI going downtown. Or maybe even a bus that goes from the wall st terminal over to WFC

Tower18 July 8, 2013 - 3:14 pm

Just a note that the Washington State Ferries in the Seattle area also have a significant commuter purpose for island populations who have no choice but to use the ferries.

They charge for their ferry, but they do it in a way that accounts for both the commuter purpose, as well as the tourist/day-tripper purpose. For instance, on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island route, which has only an extremely roundabout road connection to Seattle (sound familiar?):

1 way passenger: $7.70
Round trip passenger: $7.70 (passengers on foot only pay one-way)
One way standard vehicle: $16.40

Passenger monthly: $99.40 (the price of 13 rides, or really 13 round trips)
20-ride vehicle: $211.40 (the price of 13 rides)

So frequent users receive significant discounts off the one-ride price. Now, these prices are probably too high for NY, but just showing that you CAN have a “trapped” population and make them pay to use the ferry.

Karm July 8, 2013 - 6:55 pm

I think the ferries between NYC and Jersey might be more…?

JJJJ July 8, 2013 - 11:21 pm

As I mentioned above, $10 for a 5 minute ride

AG July 9, 2013 - 4:39 pm

I think it had to do with the comment about Seattle and “these prices are probably too high for NY”.

Karm July 8, 2013 - 6:53 pm

It’s not just Staten Island…. but also the east Bronx and northern Queens that could benefit. I’m not sure why a $6 ferry from the Rockaways didn’t work before (though it still did run on weekends for beach goers)…

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 7:26 pm

$12 r/t each day for a one-hour bride to Manhattan by boat, or $2.50 a pop each way via a 75 minute subway ride (less $$ if you have an unlimited Metro Card) with free transfers to all subway/bus lines in the city.

Do the math sweetie.

Lady Feliz July 8, 2013 - 7:31 pm

Ferries are only good for shuttling passengers from one riverbank to another (or across harbors like the SI Ferry). If you live/work near the terminals on both ends, then ferries are awesome. If you have to travel to get to/from terminals (as most Staten Islanders do) then ferries are just slow shuttle connections between trains/buses on either side. This is why they rarely work except as tourist destinations and shuttle services.

Nyland8 July 9, 2013 - 9:05 am

Well … when all is said and done, the shortest land path from SI to Manhattan still runs through New Jersey. Whether that comes in the form of some sort of SIR/PATH hybrid, or another NJTransit/MetroNorth joint venture is, at this point, subject to debate.

Building a cross-harbor tunnel for X-Billion$ might appeal to some, but the OIMBYs in the remotest parts of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx would have every right to demand their own exclusive express train to Manhattan too. Why wouldn’t they? Because they can already take an hour-long twenty-station trip when St. George gets offered a one-stop express to the financial district? Nobody would buy that as a fair deal.

That said, my personal favorite is still to make the SI subway connection via an extension of the Triboro-Rx – a tunnel from Owl’s Head to St. George. It would connect all the outer boroughs, it would avail Staten Islanders access to every single subway spur throughout the boroughs, it offers the ultimate in system redundancy for service shutdowns and Sandy-like catastrophes, St. George to Owl’s Head would cost a fraction of any cross-harbor proposals …

… and, if properly packaged, we could easily get political advocates in every borough to help preclude the NIMBY and OIMBY opposition. Most of the ROW is already in place.

It just seems doable in a way that so many other proposals aren’t.

Fool July 9, 2013 - 1:13 pm

NYCT Subways needs to get back in the business of land development.

If they did eminent domain the immediate areas surrounding proposed station and were gifted extra tax revenues of an increased radius. Suddenly the supper express concept to Eastern Queens and Staten Island could be profitable.

Phantom July 9, 2013 - 4:54 pm

More eminent domain abuse, building subways for the sake of building them, while destroying what’s left of suburban type living in Douglaston / Whitestone and Staten Island?

The people in those areas will skin the MTA management alive if they try it– and should.

We don’t need more Robert Moses high handed criminality.

Fool July 9, 2013 - 8:20 pm

The vast majority of our system was built as such and since NYC is in such great demand and the subway system as is literally hitting physical limits, shifting the population center eastward is the only way to maintain growth.

AG July 9, 2013 - 4:06 pm

Very good points

Henry July 10, 2013 - 1:17 am

For everyone who suggests that the fare on the ferry should be reinstated: Since nearly everybody is transferring to another service after or before taking the Ferry (save those few who work in Downtown and live in St. George), the ferry fare would be covered by a free fare. Since this is pointless, there’s no point in spending the money on that small segment of people who don’t transfer.

Staten Island should have a subway link via the current S53 routing to the R, before turning onto the RX routing at the Gowanus. Other than that, the best we can hope for is upgrading the ferries so that they run faster, and employing more fuel efficient boats so that more can be done with the existing operations funds. Half hourly service should be the norm. (And for those of you who say a Bay Ridge extension would take a lot of time, even most Bay Ridge riders transfer to the (N) or (D). Those run much quicker into Downtown Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Midtown.)

TTF July 12, 2013 - 8:42 am

Took to the last comment on the page to see someone else bring up the point I was going to.

The idea that a subway would bring in an extra 2.50 per rider is just not true as Henry says, most transfer to other services paying the fee anyway already.


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