Home Public Transit Policy From the Bronx, another cry for ferries

From the Bronx, another cry for ferries

by Benjamin Kabak

Subsidizing individual cab rides would be cheaper than funding a Soundview ferry.

A few years ago, as part of a sponsorship/gimmick, baseball fans could take a ferry from Wall St. to Yankee Stadium. I happened to be working at the federal courthouse that summer, and one warm evening, my sister and I made the journey. It was fun and silly, albeit a little slow. The ferry dropped us off in the Bronx on the other side of the Metro-North station and the Major Deegan, a good 10-minute walk away from the stadium. We liked the boat ride but opted to take the 4 train from then on that year.

This story highlights a particular problem with ferry service to and from just about anywhere in the city. Because of choices our New York predecessors made in the mid-20th century, most destinations — housing, jobs, attractions — aren’t near the waterfront, and ferry service has to offer a far superior ride with added amenities to be better than the alternatives. This inconvenience of reality has not stopped our politicians from trumpeting ferries as some sort of amazing solution to our transit woes, and on Monday, the call came from the Bronx.

In March, just a few weeks before the East River Ferry operators had to raise their single-ride weekend fares to $6, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio requesting a three-year trial for a ferry from Soundview in the Bronx with two stops on the Upper East Side and an ultimate Wall St. destination. Crain’s New York broke the story on Monday, and in Thornton McEnery’s reporting, we see more of the same old from our elected.

In a March 10 letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, a copy of which has been obtained by Crain’s, Mr. Diaz requests ferry service between the Soundview area of the Bronx and Manhattan’s East Side. Citing the success of ferries from Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan, and the geography of a coastline neighborhood that is not well served by public transit, Mr. Diaz’s letter requests that Mr. de Blasio endorse a three-year pilot program to test out the long-term viability of a new, permanent ferry route.

Mr. Diaz asks the mayor in the letter to acknowledge “the significant benefits ferry service between the Bronx and Manhattan would yield not just for my borough, but our entire city’s economy and our shared environment.”

The idea of a ferry between the southeast Bronx and midtown was not conjured up out of nowhere. The city saw a considerable expansion of ferry services during the Bloomberg administration, which also commissioned a study of the feasibility of ways to utilize the city’s waterways. The preliminary findings of that study were released late in 2013 and highlight Soundview as a promising origination point for a new ferry route. “It is felt that creating wider accessibility to the Bronx waterfront is an important policy consideration,” wrote the authors of the Citywide Ferry Study. “Additionally, there is opportunity for connecting Bronx residents to hospital and other job centers on the Upper East Side.”

I’ve touched upon the EDC report in the past, and it’s worth revisiting it to see if economic estimates from a group that loves to subsidize everything lines up with Diaz’s claim that ferry service would yield “significant benefits” for “our entire city’s economy.” Based on the EDC assessments of the Soundview ferry routes, it would cost at least $20 million to build ample ferry landings to support the service, and annual subsidies would run to approximately $6 million a year. The upper bounds of ridership by 2018 is approximately 1500 people per day — or the same number that can fit one one peak-hour subway train — and the subsidy per passenger could range from around $10-$24 depending upon the fare.

If anything, that’s a drag on New York’s economy, and not some panacea for for “our entire city’s economy and our shared environment.” Any bus route, for instance, that cost $10 per passenger to operate — let alone $24 — would have been eliminated years ago, and no one would have noticed. This is the fundamental problem with ferry service: It doesn’t solve any real problems for any real amount of people.

If we’re going to consider spending $20 million on upfront capital costs and $6 million on annual subsidies to improve transit, let’s figure out a way to spend it that will attract tens or hundreds of thousands of people a day rather than ones of thousands. Let’s figure out a way to talk this ferry energy and devote to real change. The fact that a politician is making this request and that it’s a serious one tells us all we need to know about the potential for transit growth in New York City today.

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John-2 April 8, 2014 - 12:33 am

When SAS opens, 96th Street on the East River would actually be a good location for a ferry terminal not as a pick-up location, but as a drop-off point for passengers from outlying shore areas of the Bronx and northern Queens. That’s because the river’s curves bring it at that point about 50 yards from First Avenue.

For people headed to midtown or downtown, a destination point there might sound a bit counteractive than just taking the boat all the way down to Wall Street or a closer-in spot on the Midtown East Side. But the walk from the river to the Second Avenue stop at 96th will be about the same as the walk from the Staten Island Ferry terminal to Bowling Green.

tacony April 8, 2014 - 1:16 am

The existing dock is at 90th though, not 96th. And the proposed Soundview ferry landing would offer a nice ride to people who live within walking distance. For everybody else in the Bronx it would never be quicker to take a slow lumbering bus out to the water to get on a ferry to get back on a subway in Manhattan.

The SI ferry isn’t a good example because there’s no subway alternative from SI to Lower Manhattan. If there were a direct subway tunnel there the SI ferry probably wouldn’t exist today. We used to have ferries everywhere and we replaced most of them with bridges and tunnels… for a reason!

Also interesting note: the condo complex that sits by the waterfront right near where the proposed Soundview dock would go? “Harbour Pointe at Shorehaven Condominiums” — the same development that the State just awarded these weirdo retroactive tax breaks to: http://nypost.com/2014/04/04/d.....tax-break/

More subsidies to unduly benefit people who are already getting tax breaks!

AG April 8, 2014 - 11:06 am

For a long time – to build anything in the Bronx (and many parts of NYC) you had to give a tax abatement to get anything built. What happened in Shorehaven happened all over NYC.. It’s nothing remotely unique.

SEAN April 8, 2014 - 11:14 am

The Beachwood Organization is one of two developers that is constructing homes in a project called Arverne By the Sea. http://www.arvernebythesea.com

Benjamin Beachwood received incredible tax insentives by the Bloomberg administration wich included a 20-year tax abatement for current & new homeowners who relocated there.

SEAN April 8, 2014 - 11:24 am


Somewhat dated, but fits the discussion perfectly.

AG April 8, 2014 - 11:33 am

Why does everything have to be a political conspiracy? Arvene was slated for development LONG ago. It was an urban renewal zone. That meant it was eligible for tax breaks long before Bloomberg was in office.

There are huge tracts available there now. If you want ot build on it – youcan too. You’ll be eligibl efor tax breaks too.

Just like Shorehaven – Arvene was eligible to encourage middle class homeownership in the city. Again – long before Bloomberg. This goes back to Ed Koch days.

lop April 8, 2014 - 1:05 pm

One issue is why are we encouraging development 2 miles from a subway, where there isn’t any real potential to run a new one closer? If we are throwing around subsidies, maybe they should be to encourage more affordable units near existing or at least cheap per rider potential transit. Study said revenue maximizing fare for the ferry would still need a $10 subsidy, and attract <600 daily riders from the Soundview landing. How many others are we setting up to want to drive around for most trips?

Bolwerk April 8, 2014 - 1:30 pm

Really. It’s also kind of ridiculous how a lot of that construction has taken place on flood zones where subsurface transit is least viable.

And to throw out one more word that should be fresh in everyone’s memory: Sandy.

AG April 8, 2014 - 2:00 pm

Arvene (well the newer parts) actually did very well in the storms of Irene and Sandy:


All the development along Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts are also studying Battery Park City – which also did well.

SEAN April 8, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Why does everything have to be a political conspiracy?
Actually it’s not a political
conspiracy at all – rather a great deal of political coruption has moved from the so called back room to litterally under the noses of the voters for all to see if one takes the time to even notice.

AG April 8, 2014 - 4:54 pm

Nothing under the nose whatsoever – Urban renewal zones have been around for decades. If ppl don’t know about them then that means they are simply not well informed.

AG April 8, 2014 - 1:33 pm

it’s not incidental that Arvene being a new development was fairly unscathed versus the older developments on the Rockaways. Also in urban development it’s never good to have acres of dead space sitting there like Arvene was (and still has huge sections).

you said: “maybe they should be to encourage more affordable units near existing or at least cheap per rider potential transit.”

that’s completely opposite to how the overall real estate market works nowadays. unless it’s a place like Melrose Commons – where the city used similar tax breaks to rebuild many thousands of housing units – the closer you are to Manhattan or the subway – the more premium price you are going to pay. There is no “one size fits all” approach to any issue in a place as complex as NYC.

As to what exists in Soundview and Throgss Neck. So what is your point? Tell the tens of thousands of ppl who are already there to move? Exactly what is the real alternative? Even if it does reach $10 per passenger (are you talking at the $5 or $2.75 paying customer projections?) – that’s still $4 less than the average express bus passenger? Do you think we should get rid of all express buses?
Again – there are no easy equations in NYC.

lop April 8, 2014 - 2:34 pm

What about the rockaways? Then build a supermarket. Or a factory. Or a park. Or a junkyard. Why do you need housing there? If someone wants to live where it’s a pain in the ass to get around let them. Stop spending a fortune to make it easier by running express buses and ferries though.

Lots of people move. It happens all the time. What’s the problem there? Yes housing is more expensive closer to transit, so throw in a tax break to get them to make a few extra units affordable. Will be cheaper in the long run than encouraging people to live here where you can set up a very expensive (for the city) ferry. If someone doesn’t have to go to Manhattan, maybe the work in the Bronx or Westchester, then let them live here. No reason to make it convenient for everyone to live everywhere.

Tell the 250 daily riders that would get on in the Bronx that spending 10.8 million on a ferry landing for them and then giving them each $20 a day to ride the ferry isn’t going to happen. Especially since that $20 a day is going to get a lot bigger once the ridership from the Manhattan stops plummets when they get better transit options than a slow bus or overcrowded subway a mile away, which will happen before the decade ends.

AG April 8, 2014 - 2:54 pm

I never said to continue to offer a ferry to the Rockaways – not at all. Reactivating the RBL makes much more sense there. That comment was originally related to the person making mention of tax breaks for the development of Arvene. (Btw – a supermarket and park were a part of that development). Not sure why you get the idea that anyone is in any rush to build a factory in NYC or any other major city in this country. As to why? This is not the suburbs or some rural area. Cities exist to make maximum use of available land. You can’t just have 100 story towers built around all transit stops. Letting land lie fallow? You end up like looking like Detroit… or even Baltimore or Philly to lesser degree.

As to what you said about tax breaks to add extra units near transit… Well that’s already happening.

I don’t know where you live but I’m sure someone is subsidizing something you are doing. I see ppl make a lot of grand statements on this site – that are completely divorced from the overall paradigm of how the city is run. The fact is every corner of the city is bursting at the seams. You can either run it as one interconnected city as possible – or operate it as fiefdoms.

You can feel free to go to any of the public hearings and tell them yourself. Btw – 250 per day is too low of an estimate.

lop April 8, 2014 - 2:57 pm

<250 users was what the study said you'd get out soundview, totaling less than 500 daily trips.

Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 6:57 pm

Actually, ferry access at Clason Point could serve the entire 10473 zip code quite easily. There’s barely any traffic once you leave the vicinity of the Bruckner Expressway, population density is high, two buses (BX27/39) cover the central and western portions of the zip code (a third could bring commuters from Castle Hill), and the terrain is flat which makes bicycling an attractive option.

Nathanael April 8, 2014 - 1:19 am

Ruben Diaz Jr.

Son of Ruben Diaz Sr., nominal Democrat of “Gang of Four” fame, who allied with the bribe-taker and the girlfriend-slasher to give State Senate control to the Republicans.

Maybe the son is better than his father — seems like it. But I wouldn’t call this an in-touch family. Maybe a Democrat should run against him?

Larry Littlefield April 8, 2014 - 9:51 am

Typical member of the insulated political/union class that drives everywhere and thinks of those on subways and buses as serfs and funding sources.

What problem would the ferry solve? Those who got placards for free parking near the ferry wouldn’t have to ride the subway with the serfs. Isn’t that sort of thing what government is for?

lop April 8, 2014 - 2:02 am

From the ferry study, subsidy per passenger trip on SI ferry is $4.86. 14.82 average for express buses. The subsidy needed for the Soundview ferry would drop under $10 at the revenue maximizing fare, $2.50 per passenger. 10.8 million would be needed to construct the soundview landing. 20 million would count the other new landing on the route at E 62nd st. Page 64 lists annual subsidy needed at 4.3 million. If adding this ferry route led to additional development, how much of the 10.8 million for the soundview ferry landing could be covered by some local value capture? If more people lived there and took the ferry would the operating subsidy needed drop?


How many of the potential users would otherwise be driving? Does getting them out of their cars justify a higher subsidy than someone who would otherwise be taking a bus or train?

Spendmor Wastemor April 8, 2014 - 8:13 am

$14 +change plus the fare cost for a city bus trip?

The NY-BOS and NY-DC bus is $15 and a well-maintained bus and was $10 on the Chinatown buses a while back.

The MTA rigs are in miserable condition; they need a suspension rebuild and rattle horribly.

lop April 8, 2014 - 1:36 pm

It helps when you use the bus more than twice per day.

Roxie April 8, 2014 - 4:14 am

I’m thinking about places where ferries might work. Riverdale, maybe. Possibly Co-Op City, since it’s right on the Hutchinson River. Apparently part of the East River flows up to around Westchester Square as well. And, of course, the part of Soundview they want to put ferries in in this plan. I don’t think any of those neighborhoods, save for maybe Co-Op City, have the amount of demand necessary to drive ferry usage, especially since ferries are slow as hell anyway. So we’ll waste money setting up another bum ferry, and then shutting it down in 10 or 15 years.

AG April 8, 2014 - 10:54 am

No to Riverdale since they have 2 Metro North stations – are close the the #1 line… and it’s very hilly. Co-Op city is slated to get a Metro North station – so no there too. Between the Soundview/Castle Hill and Throgs Neck peninsulas – there still should be good ridership. The pilot though would be for 3 years.

Tower18 April 8, 2014 - 11:00 am

Riverdale is pointless, because the population is high up on bluffs, and once you’re down on the river, what else is there? Metro North! Which will be much much faster than a ferry.

Westchester Square is also pointless because nobody is going to wander 10-15 minutes down through light industrial wasteland to a canal to take a ferry…when right in the center of the neighborhood is the express.

Co-op city on the other hand, I think wouldn’t work well because it’s so far away. It wouldn’t substantially improve on express bus options. And even if it did, there’s enough demand at Co-Op City to build a subway extension of some kind.

Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 7:02 pm

A ferry at Clason Point would serve a more dense population than Co-Op City

Almost 60,000 in 10473 vs 45,000 in Co-Op City.

For the 10473 zip code,Ferry service is the only real option unless they finally send a rapid transit line down Lafayette Ave.

lop April 8, 2014 - 7:32 pm

The planned ferry from the city’s study would run a route from a new landing in Soundview to Manhattan stopping at an existing landing at E90, a new landing at E62 and an existing landing at Pier 11. At the projected revenue maximizing fare of $2.75 (although listed as $2.5 elsewhere in the report) you get 470 daily trips out of the Soundview landing. This is with three boats operating twenty-nine minute headways. 70% of the routes projected ridership will board at the two stops in Manhattan heading to Pier 11. After SAS opens how many of them stick around? With them the per rider subsidy is almost ten dollars. Without them the needed per rider subsidy would be much greater. 470 daily trips is less than 250 daily weekday riders, less than half of one percent of the 10473 zip code. How can you substantially increase ridership out of a Soundview landing? Unless you find a way this is a lot of money, initial and on going, to benefit very few people.


You mention rapid transit down Lafayette. What did you have in mind, EL? SBS? Tramway? Where would it cross the Bronx River, and then go where? Would it cross the inlet on the East side too?

Bronxite April 9, 2014 - 5:21 pm

Interesting statistics.

I actually suggest an elevated rail rapid transit line along Lafayette. It was actually part of the original NYC subway plan:

•125th St (continuation to Second Ave Subway)
•149th St/Bruckner Blvd
•Lafayette/Hunts Point Ave
•Lafayette/Boynton Ave
•Lafayette/Soundview Ave
•Lafayette/White Plains Rd
•Lafayette/Castle Hill Ave
•Lafayette/East Tremont Ave
•East Tremont/Cross Bronx Expressway
•East Tremont/Harding Ave

lop April 9, 2014 - 9:53 pm

Elevated from where? Can you bring it out the ground while in Manhattan or can you not afford the loss of lanes by the RFK? 125-149bruckner is a bit long, what would be the routing you had in mind? A stop at 3rd and 149 might offer some useful connections.

marv April 8, 2014 - 5:32 am

Coop city will be getting better mass transit via a new nearby Metro North station to Penn Station. Riverdale has metro north too. You can increase usage at both by decreasing fares and you will come out far ahead than paying for ferry service

Spendmor Wastemor April 8, 2014 - 8:14 am

Costs more, takes longer, and involves contracts to be put out to cronies at inflated prices.
Mayor Wilhelm will get in bed with this.

Billy G April 8, 2014 - 9:46 am

Soundview already has the 6 train at its northern bound. This is some sort of giveaway. I would think that perhaps Throgs Neck and some of the communities on the Queens side of the sound would benefit more from such a ferry service.

As to the efficacy of ferries, recall that there are buses that pick up ferry riders on the UES and take them down Broadway and other routes. As more ferries exist to feed into that bus system, the more valuable and cheaper per passenger to operate that bus becomes. Passengers do not need to get onto an MTA bus to get to work after arriving on Manhattan island.

Tower18 April 8, 2014 - 11:01 am

Yeah I was thinking College Point or Whitestone, if anything.

AG April 8, 2014 - 11:04 am

True to what you said.

As to Throggs Neck and northern Queens. The study also called for a stop in northern Queens. As to why Soundview versus Throggs Neck… I think it’s about space. Originally Ferry Point was spoken about – but there apparently wasn’t enough space. So I’m guessing they would be expecting ppl in Throggs Neck to park in Soundview.
Many of the ppl in Clason’s Point – Harding Park – Castle Hill also drive (not sure how many go to Manhattan though). Shorehaven is a gated community with almost all drivers because the bus to the 6 to Manhattan is a long long ride. It’s kind of like southeast Queens.

AG April 8, 2014 - 10:57 am

Ferries are not ideal… but what can be done for a few million that’s going to make any large dent in NYC? Anything that will attract more riders will cost eponentially more as well. Soundview and Throggs Neck both could use some light rail – but that’s more expensive. What else can be done? More express buses? Those buses would clog the road and their subsidy is even more per rider than the ferries.

lawhawk April 8, 2014 - 11:20 am

BRT/SBS would transport more people and fundamentally remake the street use to favor bus/mass transit over vehicles. It would recapture a public space and allow more people to get to their destinations faster.

Of course, it is opposed by local businesses and groups that fear change and that it would disrupt businesses. Except that the experience elsewhere in the City has seen an improved business climate where SBS has been undertaken and private vehicles have been minimized.

The money that could be spent getting additional ferries could end up moving still more people in those areas by using SBS concepts and adjusting traffic patterns/use, which takes a concerted MTA/DOT effort.

The downside is that politicians might not see the benefit of their support until after they’re out of office given the pace of getting these projects done.And that’s why they favor things like ferries, which don’t have the same kinds of opposition and could potentially get up and running faster.

AG April 8, 2014 - 12:18 pm

SBS is already operating in the Bronx. It is doing well – along Fordham Rd. and Webster Ave. Those corridors have very little in common with the Soundview and Throggs Neck peninsula. (The Bx12 does go to Co-Op City – but that’s not the population affected by this potential pilot). The East Bronx – like other distant from Manhattan parts of the outer boroughs – has express buses. Those express buses are more expensive to subsidize per person than the ferries would be. In any event – it would be a pilot progam. By nature it would be an experiment.

If you were talking true BRT – that may be a different story. From those areas though – I don’t see how it could be less expensive than the express buses.

Benjamin Kabak April 8, 2014 - 12:21 pm

“Those express buses are more expensive to subsidize per person than the ferries would be.”

The most expensive express buses are on par with the least expensive ferry projections. Are those the Bronx buses or elsewhere? I don’t have the numbers handy right now.

AG April 8, 2014 - 1:00 pm

Unless the numbers are inaccurate… page 12 states the express buses relative to the East River Ferry (per passenger subsidy). page 6 shows that the Soundview route – being furthest would be more expensive than what operates on the East River… but I doubt it would be anywhere near to the express buses.


lop April 8, 2014 - 1:29 pm

Route 3B is the most successful route that incorporates service to the Bronx
waterfront. Route 3B allows the bundling of Soundview service with stops at East
90th St and East 62nd St towards Pier 11, with the Upper East Side stops helping to
defray per passenger operating costs. At revenue maximizing fares Soundview
ridership is close to 250 daily weekday riders, and overall per passenger subsidies
approach $10.

3B is Soundview-e90,e62,Pier 11. Soundview and E62 need landings constructed, some 10.8 million for Soundview, 8.8 for E62, 90 and pier 11 are already built. At $5 fare subsidy needed is $25 per rider. At revenue maximizing $2.50 fare subsidy needed is $10 per rider.

skip to page 56.

Keep in mind the only reason it’s not higher is picking up 70% of its riders at the stops in Manhattan. When the second avenue subway opens, is ridership going to drop? It will be a lot closer than the lex is now. If Manhattan ridership drops enough, the Soundview passengers won’t be enough to sustain the ferry.

AG April 8, 2014 - 1:46 pm

Charging a $2.50 fare from Soundview would be ridiculous. The $5 fare is much more realistic and sensible… and still cheaper than those express bus riders subsidy.

To answer your last question – we don’t know what will happen. That’s why it would be a pilot program. You see what works and what doesn’t. What doesn’t work – you get rid of or you tweak.

Benjamin Kabak April 8, 2014 - 1:49 pm

Once the capital dollars are spent for the ferry infrastructure, it ceases being a pilot. They’re not going to spend $20 million on terminals just to pull the plug on the route three years later, and even the EDC’s most optimistic ridership projections don’t justify a Soundview route.

AG April 8, 2014 - 2:34 pm

$20 million capital costs are not really much in NYC. Small parks can be more expensive than that. It wouldn’t even pay for many buses. If it fails what could be done with the ferry landing? Trump is going to be operating a golf course a stone’s throw from there. Maybe he could find a re-use for it. Or maybe it could be turned into a public fishing pier and kayak launch as other areas of the city have gotten.

Or – ridership could go through the roof and our questioning won’t be remembered. “nothing ventured nothing gained”.

Ok – so even if it doesn’t work – what is the alternative then for Soundview and Throggs Neck? The express buses are more expensive to subsidize If this pilot isn’t worth trying then why should we have any express buses anywhere other than maybe Staten Island?

Bolwerk April 8, 2014 - 2:53 pm

Then why Soundview? Plenty of places have the same conundrum.

Cross-borough transit service of any mode is probably the solution, especially if it costs less than $20M/stop and moves more people, feeding them into existing services.

The reason conventional transit buses are pretty viable in spite of their high per-mile operating costs is they have fairly high turnover. A seat on an express bus never turns over. It is used once in the course of the route direction and that’s it. To a greater or lesser extent, ferries basically have the same problem.

AG April 8, 2014 - 3:02 pm

What you say is true – but again – it’s all down to politics.

Why Soundview? Well they studied sites all across the city (including others near Soundview). This story is related to the Borough President writing a letter to the mayor – asking for funds for the pilot. I don’t know if other BP’s are doing the same.
The Bronx borough BP also lobbied the governor for Penn Station Access as well. The Rockaway Beach line is crying out to be re-activated. Personally – I haven’t heard anything from anyone except a few council members. The Tri-Borough Line between Brooklyn/Queens/The Bronx is getting no traction from anyone. Staten Island has a business group clamoring for light rail – but I haven’t heard the BP there saying anything. I don’t blame the Bronx BP one bit. He probably knows it’s a waste of energy trying to get money to extend the Second Ave. Subway up to the Bronx.

lop April 8, 2014 - 3:03 pm

@Bolwerk $20 million buys you two stops here. 10.8 for soundview, 8.8 for E62 in Manhattan.

Bolwerk April 8, 2014 - 3:23 pm

$20M probably buys you miles and miles of bus route, with stops almost as frequently as you like. A transfer is necessary either way.

I really think the alternative to consider is probably SBS in the near-term. Cross-Bronx SBS that feeds a few subways.

ajedrez April 8, 2014 - 1:54 pm

The express bus isn’t that heavily subsidized. Most Bronx express routes cost around $9 per passenger to operate, and the average fare paid (when you consider unlimiteds and transfers) is around $4.50. So that means the subsidy is about $4.50 per rider, versus $10 for the ferry.

lop April 8, 2014 - 2:22 pm

Average express bus subsidy from the city is $14.82 per rider. That’s not the cost of running the bus, that’s the cost to the city, the rider pays another $4.81 on average. Some express buses have higher or lower subsidies, that’s just the average.

Ferry needs $10 per rider at the revenue maximizing fare of $2.5, but %70 of the projected riders get on at E90 or E62 in Manhattan heading to Pier 11. Without them this ferry would cost much more per rider. Which is what will happen when SAS opens, or if surface transit on 1st is upgraded enough.

AG April 8, 2014 - 2:27 pm

Please cite your statistics. According to the study done… the average express bus passenger gets a subsidy of almost $15. How do you get the number that it’s about $5 subsidy per passenger in The Bronx?

lop April 8, 2014 - 2:18 pm

29 minute headway and a $5 fare projected daily ridership is 660 for the route in 2018. Rises to 1590 if the fare is lowered to $2.5 – people will either drive or take a slow bus to the train if you charge $5. Operating costs stay the same, overall subsidy drops slightly, per rider subsidy plummets. But what happens once %70 of the riders who get on in Manhattan for this route get a subway a lot closer to them? Maybe for them it would even be better to add signal prioritization for the buses on 1st avenue, or even switch them to rails in a few years when you have enough routes to make maintenance of a new rail fleet more efficient than it would be to open a new ferry landing at 62 st. Or maybe there would be an option of connecting the soundview ferry with spots in queens or elsewhere in the bronx to make up for the eventual loss of manhattan users. A three year pilot program that includes $20 million in capital expenses for the landings that may not be viable for long and that creates a constituency that like their expensive ferry and will raise hell if you try to take it away doesn’t sound like a good idea.

Bolwerk April 8, 2014 - 1:20 pm

Seriously, buses seem more attractive and cost significantly less than ferries. Not saying there is no reason ever to have a ferry, but I think most of the credible routes have been taken. If you want something cheap that can be done quickly, I’d say SBS is the way to go here.

But people always have a warped idea of how “expensive” light rail is. Yes, it’s more expensive if you look at upfront costs only. It’s very, very, very often competitive or cheaper if you look at long-term costs: buses mean more vehicle turnover and more labor. Not always, of course; the fewer riders you have, the more buses make sense.

Bottom line is, I think it’s fair to say a lot of investment needs to go into Bronx transit (rail or bus), and ferries aren’t going to help much.

Tower18 April 8, 2014 - 1:39 pm

Case in point, in yesterday’s thread, people were discussing crowding on the M15 SBS, which is already running once every 3 minutes, and people are asking for more buses. So for every additional ~100 riders, we need to add an additional driver and bus.

There is a point, above which buses cannot scale any further. I would say that in an area like the UES, that point is clearly where you have a bus every 2-3 minutes and still can’t fit everyone. You cannot add any more buses.

Buses are a fine answer in a lot of places, but if a corridor is busy enough to have single-route bus service every 2-3 minutes, it probably needs LRT at the least.

AG April 8, 2014 - 1:40 pm

Yeah light rail would be great – and is a lower subsidy per passenger. Absolutely no argument there. The reality is though that the capital costs are relatively high… So it would be much much harder to get done.
Most of the Bronx is actually well served by subways and buses… The exception being the extreme east.. That is where these neighborhoods are – and the expensive (and still having to navigate traffic) express buses are used.

Bolwerk April 8, 2014 - 2:19 pm

“Harder” is an odd political problem I think. Capital costs by themselves shouldn’t be a huge hurdle, since these are amortized anyway.

Of course, part of the problem is the nature of capital expenses: adding new infrastructure will sometimes just annoy people. But another thing is labor probably wants more operating (largely labor) cost and less capital cost.

AG April 8, 2014 - 2:34 pm

Shouldn’t be a problem… but they are. We could all list a dozen projects that won’t happen (or hasn’t yet) because we can’t find the money for the capital costs. We couldn’t even get a station at 41st and 10th for a subway line that’s already being dug. I have very little confidence in our ability to get more than a handful of serious transit projects done each generation.

Bolwerk April 8, 2014 - 2:40 pm

Well, that’s another problem: costs are snowballed so high that what should be a realistic project no longer is. The loss of 41st and Tenth is really a tragedy.

jspech April 8, 2014 - 12:22 pm

Just wondering, any consideration to expand the 2,5 at Flatbush Junction to Kings Plaza or even Floyd Bennett Field?

Michael April 8, 2014 - 1:19 pm

On other forums it has been mentioned repeatedly that there were water table issues with the extension of the Nostrand Avenue #2 and #5 lines in southern Brooklyn. The same water table issues were also present for the proposed Utica Avenue for both the IRT and IND (IND Second System PLan) which was planned to become an elevated line as it reached further into southern Brooklyn. In addition for the IRT, there were money issues – namely the lack of money to continue the proposed extensions.

Such an extension of these lines have been proposed several times, and continue to be thought of.


More SUBWAYS please April 8, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Ben – They’ve given up on expanding subway lines/service in NYC!!! enough is enough with the buses, ferries, bikes, etc. They can never compare/compete with SUBWAYS!!! can you imagine if we hadn’t started pointless wars in distant land what we could have done with the money!?! a world class, first rate transit system like much of Europe and Asia….oh well its the USA where we hate everything public…counting down our demise in 3, 2, 1..

AG April 8, 2014 - 1:02 pm

sure subways are the best… but we have to be realistic… most of us will not live to see the Second Ave. subway completed down to Hanover Square (if it ever happens).

EgoTripExpress April 8, 2014 - 1:55 pm

Dude is getting around media today. So, he want’s ferries, but not the congestion pricing to pay for them:


Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 7:14 pm

The Diaz plan won’t get anywhere. The Move NY plan makes a lot more sense to anyone with half a brain.

Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 7:13 pm

I just want to say that the 10473 zip code, located South of the Bruckner Expressway is severely undeserved by rapid transit despite it’s population of approximately 60,000 people.

If a ferry could get you from Clason Point to Midtown in 30 minutes, I bet a lot of people would switch. Those that live in the most transit inaccessible areas along the waterfront face over an hour long ride to Midtown. That area also contains the highest income earners in the zip code. The BX 27 and BX 39 buses serve more than half the zip code and can cover the distance to the Ferry in a very short time frame. The BX 22 could potentially have an alternate route in addition to bring in Castle Hill commuters. In collaboration with Citi Bike, the population could also be expanded.

Benjamin Kabak April 8, 2014 - 7:15 pm

If a ferry could get you from Clason Point to Midtown in 30 minutes, I bet a lot of people would switch.

The problem is that it can’t. It can get you to the outskirts of Midtown or the edge of Manhattan, but access from the ferry terminals to the job centers is poor.

Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 7:25 pm

Yes, unfortunately. Imagine if we had hydrofoil ferries? I could dream huh. We need them too in situations like this.

lop April 8, 2014 - 7:53 pm

Hydrofoil ferries? I think Ben’s point was that the ferry can’t take you to the jobs in Midtown because there’s no water there, and cross town transit isn’t great. The studied Soundview ferry route would stop at 90, 62, and pier 11. It wouldn’t stop at the modeled midtown destination of 34th st. I don’t see potential ridership listed. For travel to midtown, for many in in the area it might not be any harder to get to Hunt’s point where a new MNR stop is to be added heading to Penn than it would be to get to a ferry landing, though I can’t seem to find exactly where that would be situated. Any chance you know?

Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 10:53 pm

Oh I realize that the landing would be a bit of a distance from the business core.

Protected crosstown SBS routes? Citi Bike for others. Just some alternative ideas.

The potential Metro North connection at Hunts Point is unfortunately inconvenient for the population out of walking distance from the BX5. It would probably take someone about 35 minutes to get to that station from south of Randall Avenue (maybe even Seward Ave).

The Parkchester station is perhaps more promising for those people. BX 39 straight up White Plains Road. 15 minutes from the southernmost reaches but needs traffic light synchronization.

The 10473 zip code could use off board boarding along the BX5 bus route to accelerate the commute significantly. As it stands, it takes the bus approximately 30-35 minutes during morning rush hour to complete its Westbound route from White Plains Road to the 2/5 train at Simpson Street Westchester Avenue. Approx < 2 miles. The BX 5 serves the most dense community in 10473, which consist of predominantly NYCHA buildings and 15-20+ story rentals and co-ops.

A new rapid transit route along Lafayette Ave would change the game.

Nathanael April 9, 2014 - 12:40 pm

Crosstown light rail in Midtown to the East River. Worth it.

AG April 9, 2014 - 8:28 pm

“Vision 42” might be the best best… We’ll see.

Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 10:57 pm

No idea about the Manhattan ferry landing lop. The Clason Point landing would perhaps be located just west, adjacent of Kane’s Park.

Bronxite April 8, 2014 - 7:22 pm

Also, how about a damn Lafayette Avenue Elevated rapid transit which terminates at Throgs Neck?

•125th St (continuation to Second Ave Subway)
•149th St/Bruckner Blvd
•Lafayette/Hunts Point Ave
•Lafayette/Boynton Ave
•Lafayette/Soundview Ave
•Lafayette/White Plains Rd
•Lafayette/Castle Hill Ave
Lafayette/East Tremont Ave
East Tremont/Cross Bronx Expressway
East Tremont/Harding Ave

AG April 9, 2014 - 10:25 am

Yeah I used to think light rail along the entirety of bruckner blvd. but Lafayette might be better since it is further from the #6. In any event I don’t think we will see that in any of the upcoming decades if we are all still around. That is why I can’t understand the consternation of some with this potential test pilot. It’s cheaper per passenger than express buses and the capital costs are low. Even if it fails – there is a park on Clasons Point where the landing could be re-used by the public. Likewise the east side of Manhattan is being turned into a greenway – so the same thing could be done.
Something needs to be done one way or another. Aside from the high car usage in Clasons Point and Throggs Neck there is a lot of commercial development going on. The golf course and shopping center both in Ferry Point… Then the outlet mall going up right on the other end of brush ave. I don’t think buses can handle all that. Apparently there will be a shuttle to the 6 train so we’ll see. Again that still won’t help the residents.

Sayin it’s a waste to study the ferry is akin to saying that if I have taste for beef but can’t get an $80 steak I won’t settle for a $5 hamburger. Sure it’s not the same – but why go hungry? Even if it tastes bad at least it was only $5.

lop April 9, 2014 - 11:55 am

The ferry was studied. It would cost $10.8 million and serve fewer than 250 people totaling < 500 trips per weekday at a $2.5 fare (or $2.75? it mentions both). It's cheaper than the average express bus for now to subsidize, but only because it would pick up more riders in Manhattan at E90 and E62 before heading to Pier 11, but the study questions how many of those Manhattan riders will still choose the ferry after phase one of the second avenue subway opens giving them close access to a Broadway express train. From that it doesn't follow that we should jump in head first and cover the extensive capital costs. No $10.8 million isn't as much as a subway, but a subway carries a lot more people, and at much lower operating costs. If you throw that much money at every harebrained scheme someone comes up with in every neighborhood across the city that might be used by a few hundred people with extensive subsidies, it would add up fast, and the city can't begin to afford that. Further study to see if there is a way to make the ferry viable after SAS1 opens is justified though. The study seemed to only count Bronx riders heading for Pier 11, though mentioned there may be more heading for the hospitals on the upper east side. Maybe a shuttle from the ferry landing would get enough of them to take it to make the ferry viable if Manhattan ridership drops off. Maybe there's a market for travel from Queens to the Bronx on this ferry, so that it wouldn't be running empty or mostly empty going from Pier 11 to Soundview etc….

What do you think the South Bronx greenway could do to help?

Bronxite April 9, 2014 - 5:27 pm

A Lafayette Ave El would better serve the undeserved population south of Bruckner Blvd. Like you mentioned, Bruckner Blvd is just too close to the number 6.

The road is wide and could support an elevated structure. The population is also dense.

Quirk April 8, 2014 - 8:13 pm

I like reading Benjamin’s snarky remarks.

On a serious note, he’s right on this one (and many others) 🙂


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