Home Public Transit Policy As ferry plan emerges, so do major flaws

As ferry plan emerges, so do major flaws

by Benjamin Kabak


As anyone who’s kept up with my site over the years knows, I’m not a particularly big fan of the recent push to expand the city’s ferry network. If handled properly and if geography and economic forces dictate accordingly, boats can be a complementary part of a comprehensive transit network, but the recent attention — from Washington Heights to Soundview to Bay Ridge to the Rockaways — on expanding the network seems to treat ferries as a comprehensive solution to some of the travel woes affecting the city’s more isolated areas. As a history of failed ferry companies and eliminated routes tell show us, ferries are not the panacea they are promised to be.

The latest round of ferry fetishization comes to us from the Economic Development Corporation. The city agency recently unveiled plans for an extensive ferry network, and at the time, the mayor said, apparently with a straight face, that he expects the new ferry routes to help alleviate subway congestion problems. That’s almost as crazy as the idea that pedestrian plazas should be ripped up because of a handful of aggressive costumed characters and desnudas asking for tips, but I digress.

Now that the ferry service is inching closer to reality, the details are becoming clearer, and the planning seems to be as flawed as I feared it would be. Last week, Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 heard a presentation on the Red Hook plan, and what they heard does not inspire much confidence in the potential popularity of the ferry network. Two reports focused on different, but equally as problematic, aspects of the new service.

The first concerns fare payment and comes courtesy of DNA Info:

The planned Citywide Ferry System will begin service in the spring of 2017 with three routes — South Brooklyn, Astoria and Rockaway — but its $2.75 ticket will not integrate with the MTA’s MetroCard fare system or allow free transfers to subways and buses, city officials said at a community meeting Thursday night.

Without a free transfer, most riders who do not work within walking distance of their docks would effectively see their transportation costs double. But the higher cost would still be in the range of the fare for an express bus, said Lydia Downing, the city Economic Development Corporation’s vice president and deputy director for government and community relations.

“I think it’s a dealbreaker if you can’t get it integrated with the MetroCard,” Bahij Chancey, an architect and Cobble Hill resident, told the EDC at the meeting. Commuters won’t bother with the additional ticket and the extra fare, and the city will find there isn’t enough rider revenue to sustain the operation, he said.

EDC officials claimed that the fare payment system could be integrated with the MTA’s once the agency phases out the MetroCard, but that’s not likely to happen before the initial three-year ferry pilot term expires. For now, the ferries will create a two-fare system, and that’s not a plus in my book. We’ll revisit that in a few paragraphs.

The other problem concerns terminal location. The Brooklyn Paper summarizes:

The city should jetty-son its plan to open a new commuter ferry stop on the southern edge of Red Hook and drop anchor in Atlantic Basin instead, say locals. Officials intend to send ferries to either the privately-owned Van Brunt Street pier or the city-owned parkland Valentino Pier when the city expands its ferry services in 2017. But those sites are out of walking distance for many Red Hookers, not close enough to transit, and lack parking, critics said.

“The two locations you have picked — unless they can take their car, fold it up, and put it in their briefcase — there is no parking,” said Jerry Armer, who is a member of Community Board 6, which encompasses Red Hook. Instead, locals are floating their own plan to open the dock in Atlantic Basin, in the corner closest to Conover Street, which they said has a giant parking lot and is closer to more Hook homes.

The idea of creating a ferry terminal that requires a car to be accessible to the neighborhood it’s supposed to serve is completely anathema to ferries as a solution to the transit problem; the two-fare system simply exacerbates and underscores this flaw.

Red Hook, in particular, is a prime spot for ferry service. It’s surrounded by water, isolated from the subway system, and contains a high amount of lower- and middle-income housing. It’s an area may regard as a transit desert, and yet, the ferries don’t help those citizens who can’t reach transit. By locating terminals too far from the public housing complexes — which aren’t near the water in the first place — and instituting a two-fare system, the ferries are essentially unreachable and unaffordable for those most in need of better access. If ferries can’t work for Red Hook, what chances do the rest of the proposed system have?

Ultimately, these flawed plans leave me with the same question I’ve had from the start: If the city is willing to subsidize expensive ferry service so that the fare for a boat ride is $2.75 but won’t ensure a transfer to a bus or subway, would New Yorkers be better off if the EDC simply invested the money in a better bus network for Red Hook or even a light rail system on a dedicated set of tracks running from Borough Hall to Red Hook to Smith/9th Sts.? If the Red Hook ferry — particularly low-hanging fruit — is being set up to fail, it’s hard to think otherwise.

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Stephen August 25, 2015 - 1:05 am

‘ferry fetishization’ – that phrase is worth the price of admission. Beautiful.

Phantom August 25, 2015 - 4:36 am

Most of these routes make no sense.

The Bay Ridge service will have multiple stops and it looks like a connection in order to reach Manhattan

There is a St George to S Ferry service which would compete with the frequent, free SI Ferry service

None of this has been thought out

Th August 25, 2015 - 7:39 am

The St. George / South Ferry route is the SI Ferry. But yes, the routings don’t make sense in general. What’s up with the Roosevelt Island zig zag?

Fbfree August 25, 2015 - 2:19 pm

It’s not a zigzag, it’s on the way.

Mariposa August 25, 2015 - 3:15 pm

If you are referring to the ferry from Astoria which will stop at Roosevelt Island and then go back to LIC, yes, that is a zig-zag.

Regarding the two-fare system, that’s a deal-breaker right there. It may put the ferry out of many commuters’ price-ranges. I know I couldn’t afford the ferry five days a week plus my monthly MetroCard.

A friend of mine was in Sydney and Melbourne, cities on the water, recently and marveled at their water taxi/ferry system. I agree that we should make better use of ferries, but there are so many flaws with this plan. I think NYC has some of the poorest city planning in general.

Terranova47 August 26, 2015 - 11:12 am

The Roosevelt Island ferry route makes sense as it will link the Cornell Tech Campus to housing in Queens not near the F train.

Eric August 25, 2015 - 5:58 pm

Zigzagging between shores is common for ferries. Crossing rivers is where ferries have the most advantage over other transit forms, and that potential demand is exploited by maximizing the number of connections between shores.

Jon Y August 25, 2015 - 8:47 am

The Bay Ridge service looks like it ends at Pier 11 after stopping in DUMBO, so no extra transfer/connection needed.

Phantom August 25, 2015 - 4:51 pm


From Bay Ridge I see what might

A) one stop to BAT and a transfer to Pier 11

Or B) four stops to Dumbo, then a transfer to Pier 11

And few would do A and no one in their right mind will do B.
This is are non solutions to a problem that does not exist.. Previous ferries to Pier 11 from BR or near it ( BAT ) failed due to very low ridership. I saw it.

I see less of a demand for ferries than the ferry industrial complex thinks there is.

And I think there are two potentially successful options that are not even on the table

1) Bay Ridge to St George

2) Tottenville SI to Perth Amboy NJ

There are huge flows of people traveling from Brooklyn to SI and from SI to NJ every day. The first would provide connect two Brooklyn bus lines to multiple SI buses and the SIR; the second would provide the first transit connection from SI and NJ in 50 years . It is astonishing that there is that gap in the transit grid today.

But instead we’ll get empty ferries in routes that make zero sense.

adirondacker12800 August 25, 2015 - 6:33 pm

There’s a lot of people who go through Perth Amboy to get to or from a lot of other places. Almost none of them would use a ferry.

Phantom August 25, 2015 - 7:02 pm

The Tottebville – Perth Amboy ferry served a need for a very long time. It would have served not just Perth Amboy but all those who could reach the SI Railway. If the Perth Amboy slip was walking distance of NJT they’d be walking distance of a major NJ Transit train line. Back in the day, people did this.

The lack of any mass transit between SI and NJ such biggest gap on the East Coast, despite the fact that SI and NJ residents are big transit users and despite the fact that the Goethals, Oiterbridge and roads are choked with traffic.


adirondacker12800 August 25, 2015 - 8:43 pm

No it’s not. They allow people who don’t live in Perth Amboy to use the bridge. Almost all of them are deeply uninterested in taking a ferry from the Tottenville train station to a bus in Perth Amboy.

Phantom August 26, 2015 - 6:10 am

You have no idea of what those people want or what they would use, certainly no more than anyone else here knows.

And there is a complete lack of mass transit between SI and most of NJ, and I think that could and should be fixed. Its amazing that there is a transit Berlin Wall, when all there are connections everywhere else in the region in all directions.

adirondacker12800 August 26, 2015 - 11:37 am

There’s a reason why the ferry stopped running in 1963. Probably that the B&O wasn’t able to convince the ICC to put it out of it’s misery in 1943.

ajedrez August 26, 2015 - 8:10 pm

I do think that there needs to be a South Shore – NJ connection, but I think it should via a bus over the Outerbridge, rather than via a ferry. A bus penetrates deeper into both SI and NJ. I think the S55 would do the trick.

Joe Steindam August 26, 2015 - 9:55 am

It’s easy to envision a good connection between the SIRR and a ferry terminal in Tottenville, but the connection in Perth Amboy wouldn’t be as smooth. The current station is at least 3/4 of a mile inland from the waterfront, or more depending on the dock location. Perth Amboy is hilly, and slopes upward towards the train station (the train station itself sits in a depressed cut through the middle of town). Buses could fill the gap, but current bus service in Perth Amboy is atrocious, with combined headways across all service at about 20 minutes at the best of time. A shuttle run between the ferry dock and the station might work but at a high cost. And then you get to the NJ Coast Line which has terribly inconsistent headways in the peak direction ranging from 7 minutes to 35 minutes.

Cost may be a bigger concern. If we say this ferry would be free, the cost to Newark from Perth Amboy is $7.50, compared to $5.50 via SIRR-SIF-NYCT-PATH (granted this is a much longer trip from Tottenville). This is probably the most advantageous trip via this ferry, and it’s assuming the ferry is free.

I’m not saying no one would ride a ferry between the two points, I just don’t think the connection on either end would generate significant transit benefits, particularly because the existing transit on the Jersey side is inadequate. But you might be able to make some kind of equity argument on behalf of Perth Amboy, a significantly disadvantaged town that providing them a cheaper avenue to New York (albeit slower than their current service) is warranted.

Phantom August 26, 2015 - 10:25 am


Good information – I wonder what people did in the days of the old Tottenville ferry? Because I have to imagine that some of them were transferring from the train at Perth Amboy.

What about a bus from a couple of stops in south SI ( incl SIR stops) to Perth Amboy NJT and I think Rahway ( where you could get the NE Corridor line? )

It would be a huge time saver for SI or even some Broklyn people going by transit to NJ or PA.

adirondacker12800 August 26, 2015 - 11:46 am

All two dozen of them had a jolly time. The ferry terminal was declared a landmark and restored.


Joe Steindam August 26, 2015 - 3:10 pm

If you’re making me outline a bus route between SI and Jersey via the Outerbridge and Perth Amboy, I don’t think Rahway makes sense, since that’s where the NJ Coast Line rejoins the NEC, and there isn’t much there. After Perth Amboy, a potential route is to take the GSP to Metropark, since it’s a (sprawling) job center, you can get on Amtrak and the NEC, and the bus network is a little stronger there, and augmented by companies that run shuttles to and from the station.

I think that route might have some SI appeal since it goes to Metropark (again I’m not optimistic on the travel demand to Perth Amboy), although I don’t think you’ll get Brooklyn riders, since getting to SI from much of Brooklyn involves getting to Bay Ridge and taking the S79 or heading to Whitehall St and getting the ferry.

Phantom August 26, 2015 - 8:12 pm

The S53 gets you from Bay Ridge to the Grasmere SIR stop easily.

But I seriously propose to restore service from Bay Ridge 69th St Pier to St George SI. It would see it as a big success even if the Transit Berlin Wall between SI and NJ is never taken down.

Joe Steindam August 27, 2015 - 9:48 am

Yes, I realized after I posted that more bus lines go to Staten Island from Brooklyn, but they all terminate in Bay Ridge. Current travel from Brooklyn to Metropark probably takes two or three links (a bus or subway or a subway transfer to Penn Station and then NJ Transit on the NEC). The way we’ve been discussing is potentially five transit links (one to two transit links to get to Bay Ridge, another bus to SI or a ferry, SIR, bus to NJ). Just out of convenience and less need to coordinate schedules and fares, you’re probably going to take the simpler trip.

As for a SI to Bay Ridge ferry, I see the value, but again I question the Brooklyn destination. Because I don’t see Bay Ridge as a destination in it’s own right, but probably still a transfer to better transit systems, might a St. George ferry benefit from going to either the Brooklyn Army terminal at 58th Street, which gets you closer to an express stop with additional service compared to trains in Bay Ridge proper, or either Pier 6 or Fulton Landing to get you closer to the downtown Brooklyn job center?

Sc August 25, 2015 - 7:04 am

I actually like the ferry system, and even I have to agree that some of these routes and the lack of MetroCard integration is mind numbingly stupid.

Kevin Walsh August 25, 2015 - 10:00 am

>>>would New Yorkers be better off if the EDC simply invested the money in a better bus network for Red Hook or even a light rail system on a dedicated set of tracks running from Borough Hall to Red Hook to Smith/9th Sts.?<<<

Bob Diamond got that ball rolling 12 years ago, but the city scotched it largely because the city didn't want to work with Bob…

As far as the ferries are concerned, w/o bus transfers, it helps the upper middle class but not the poorer.

Larry Littlefield August 25, 2015 - 10:03 am

Money is not unlimited, and what doesn’t get funded during stock market bubbles will surely be cut during the bust.

No one is going to announced that they have decided to let the subway system rot back to the level of the 1970s. They are going to announce the places money is going instead.

Larry Littlefield August 25, 2015 - 10:07 am

“Without a free transfer, most riders who do not work within walking distance of their docks would effectively see their transportation costs double. But the higher cost would still be in the range of the fare for an express bus.”

That is paying for the privilege of not riding with the sort of people who ride on subways and buses, in the conditions the political/union class has planned for them. Even as mass transit is the ride of choice of the young, along with bicycles, the political class attitude has not changed.

I recommend the movie Fort Tilden. Two young women, whose characters are a combination of all the worst characteristics of all the people those who made the movie know, decide to take a beach day at the Rockaways. Because it isn’t a weekend and the ferry isn’t running, they have no idea how to get there, and end up paying $80 for a taxi because they don’t want to get on the bus down Flatbush Avenue.

Bgriff August 25, 2015 - 10:40 am

The one thing that this plan does get right is the focus on Pier 11. Midtown ferry service is something of a lost cause since most offices are very far from the water (and also significantly north of 34th Street). No idea if the East River Ferry’s loop bus is still running or not, but it seemed like a real hassle.

But in FiDi, the ferry does actually stop close to numerous offices, and the overall neighborhood is much smaller and more walkable than Midtown. Granted, there are also many fewer offices. But there are enough offices to make ferries a reasonable niche commuting link for a few selected neighborhoods. Even better if there were also somewhere to dock over by World Financial Center, which could serve people working there and the rapidly increasing number of people who work at the World Trade Center.

Daniel August 25, 2015 - 10:51 am

The WFC terminal would make a whole lot of sense, but I think it’s privately owned by either NY Waterway or Brookfield Properties (though I could be wrong).

Ultimately the lack of MetroCard integration is going to kill this project — which is baffling, considering the RIOC is able to integrate the MetroCard on the tram (and with a transfer, at that). Can the EDC seriously not just set up a couple of SBS-like terminals and have them pay with their MetroCard that way?

adirondacker12800 August 25, 2015 - 2:40 pm

If they have extra capacity I’m sure they would be willing to lease some of it.

Joe Steindam August 26, 2015 - 10:02 am

The WFC terminal is owned by the Port Authority. If there is spare capacity, other ferry operators can use it.


Chris August 25, 2015 - 10:58 am

The ferries don’t make sense, as they won’t connect well with other forms of mass transit. Has anyone considered how slow the ferry system would be? It makes sense to run ferries to/from Staten Island, simply because other mass transit is in place to connect with the free ferry. But I don’t see anything else working with this proposal.

Strangely enough, I see one place where a ferry could work – if you could make a convenient connection from midtown. And that is LGA. Water travel would provide a predictable travel time to this airport. But extending the Astoria line makes much more sense.

Until the waterfront is close enough to other, rapid, mass transit routes (Buses on dedicated lanes, rails, etc.) new ferries don’t make sense – other than that there is minimal long term investment, and that failure doesn’t cost much….

Larry Littlefield August 25, 2015 - 11:19 am

In a city where the unions/contractors/consultants/lawyers/ community groups didn’t run the cost of construction to the moon, the Times Square Shuttle could be extended east.

With a stop on 2nd Avenue, through the future basement of the building on the large vacant lot adjacent to the FDR, at grade under the FDR (with the service road lifted over it for exit and entrance), down the ferry terminal and the back side of the hospital complex along the river.

I’d also add a shuttle stop at 5th-6th Avenue, with an easy connection to the B/D/F/M and 7. Between the extended shuttle and the extended 7, you’d have an east-west link river to river.

But in New York, we can’t afford even to add a station at 10th Avenue.

VLM August 25, 2015 - 11:36 am

If you extend the 42nd St. Shuttle east, what exactly are your plans for the popular and overcrowded subway line standing in the way? You’re better off trying to figure if you could create an infill 7 line stop underneath 2nd or 1st (though I think station depth and the tunnel angle are problematic).

Bolwerk August 25, 2015 - 12:31 pm

I think the Lex is in the way, much the same way PATH can’t be extended beyond 33rd. On the other end, it’s at grade with the 1/2/3, so it can’t be expanded that way either.

It’s probably only worth keeping all because it just happens to be in one of the few places where extra subway capacity just can’t fail to attract riders.

Larry Littlefield August 25, 2015 - 1:12 pm

Based on the position of the non-revenue connection from the Lex to the Shuttle, it should be possible to go over the Lex.


Remember the entire four-track line originally turned west onto 42nd Street (the contract one subway). With the dual contracts, it was hooked into the Upper Lex which came in below.


In fact, it appears the thing to do would be to extend the Shuttle east 41st Street.

VLM August 25, 2015 - 2:01 pm

I don’t believe it’s physically possible to go over the Lex line based on what’s both above and below ground at 42nd St. As I said, your better solution is to explore an added stop on the 7 train which also isn’t particularly practical.

Eric August 25, 2015 - 6:03 pm

42nd St would not work because you’d have to go through the Grand Central mezzanine.

41st St might work though.


Eric August 25, 2015 - 6:06 pm

Of course, you’d be forced to tunnel through the tangle of Midtown utilities to accomplish this. Given how difficult such tunneling is even for a project as vital as SAS, I see no chance of it happening here.

Anonymous August 26, 2015 - 6:14 am

As has been said before, almost physically impossible, highly disruptive on the surface (turning it eastward onto 41st might require you to do work underneath one of the most expensive pieces of real estate on the planet, sandwich a cut&cover construction site on Park Av (*really* narrow), mess with the viaduct, and shut down 41 for years with barely any room for pedestrians) and therefore have a price tag so big that constructing a subway to Staten Island, building a new Hudson rail tunnel, extending the 7 to Secaucus, building underground Midtown and Lower Manhattan freeways and paying scientists to engineer a flying pig would all combined have a much better benefit-cost ratio.

Unless your country happens to be the Soviet Union, in which case knocking down expensive real estate becomes virtually free (not that there even was expensive real estate in Moscow at that point).

Larry Littlefield August 26, 2015 - 9:31 am

“And shut down 41 for years.”

If you are building close enough to the surface, 200 tough guys with and tools and buckets would be able to do it for each segment in a matter of months, if it weren’t for all the other crap.

Anonymous August 26, 2015 - 5:53 pm

Crap like high-rises and a viaduct that is both city and federally listed?

Those 200 tough guys would be of better use elsewhere.

VLM August 25, 2015 - 11:37 am

And why do you need a shuttle stop at 5th or 6th Ave.? One can just take the 7 instead. That’s totally unnecessary and a waste of money even if construction costs were reasonable. What a silly idea.

Bolwerk August 25, 2015 - 12:25 pm

If river-to-river really matters that much at that point, and I’m not saying it doesn’t, there is always Vision42.

Larry Littlefield August 25, 2015 - 1:13 pm

At same construction costs, what I propose might be cheaper — extending what is already there, rather than a new system on top of it. As it is, neither is affordable in this city.

Bolwerk August 25, 2015 - 3:07 pm

No prime Manhattan land acquisition costs with Vision42. The cost of one station really might be a pretty comprehensive cross-town LRT system.

I’d be concerned about speed, but Manhattan is pretty narrow at this point.

adirondacker12800 August 25, 2015 - 2:45 pm

They tried ferries to La Guardia. They stopped running them. Little interest. If you are going to get in a cab to 34th and East River ya might as well just go through the Midtown Tunnel and go to the airport.

Chet August 25, 2015 - 11:31 am

The only ferry route that would make some sense, is the one not shown on the map. A fast ferry going from Princes Bay on Staten Island (that’s almost at the bottom of the map above, on the eastern side of the island) to Wall Street and then 34th Street would have good ridership.
Currently, the commute for people in that area is anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes (yes, it can be two hours). A ferry has been “tested” and the ride would be about 45 minutes.
A ferry from Stapleton? Why? The Staten Island Ferry is a ten minute bus ride away.

22rr August 25, 2015 - 1:31 pm

Yep, no Metrocard or subway transfer makes this whole scheme ridiculously idiotic

Rob August 25, 2015 - 2:18 pm

Now if you established the coney/staten ferry for CARS then you would have something! And actually do a lot of good – getting a lot of traffic out of brooklyn. [even better would be something like Freeport – NJ, also.]

Not surprising no metrocard integration, given you are talking abt a city agency vs the state’s. If the city would man-up and take back ITS subway system, that would solve a lot of problems, but obviously that ain’t gonna happen.

Kind of related to “the mayor said, apparently with a straight face, that he expects the new ferry routes to help alleviate subway congestion problems. That’s almost as crazy…” No crazier than the voters electing that clown to be mayor.

Phantom August 26, 2015 - 7:01 am


You’re on to something, but I’d tweak it.

If there were a car ferry from NJ to Brooklyn that would be of immense use especially on a) Sunday nights in the summer or b) Thanksgiving or other holiday nights, that would be of use to people.

Traffic comes to a near stop those times on the horrific, inadequate Outerbridge Crossing and way back onto 440. And then again on the SI Expressway.

It won’t happen, but I’m telling you an all-reserved car ferry would attract customers – especially as there are no mass transit options at all from NJ-SI-Brooklyn, and cars are the only way to travel, unless you wish go way out of your way into Manhattan to get a bus or train.

adirondacker12800 August 26, 2015 - 11:41 am

The $500 dollar toll might put people off. If it only gets used 6 days a year they have to pay for the rest of the year while it’s sitting there unused.

Rob August 26, 2015 - 2:34 pm

I would think it would get A LOT of use. The traffic in that corridor is ordinarily bad, and I, for one, would be happy to avoid it. Nobody I know likes driving on Belt Pkwy, etc.

adirondacker12800 August 26, 2015 - 5:10 pm

No it wouldn’t because the loading and unloading time would be as long as the traffic delays.

Joe Steindam August 26, 2015 - 4:01 pm

I hate to rain on the parade, but the biggest car ferry in the United States can only transport 200 vehicles at a time. These ferries take a long time to load and unload and do not travel very fast. Understandably, they work best in locations where there are either no direct road connections or the road is much longer than the direct crossing, like crossing the middle of the Great Lakes, or crossing the Puget Sound in Washington state. They’re not ideal for this task, since they can’t take many cars off the road at a time, and making the system more frequent requires additional docks and staging areas for vehicles. I don’t see obvious locations for these services to originate from.

The problem is that the Verrazano is not the real bottleneck in the road network, it has 12 lanes, the real bottlenecks are the highways on either side, which have half the lanes of the bridge itself. And since most people will still probably need to get back on the highway following a ferry, the availability of a ferry will likely not solve this problem.

Nathanael September 2, 2015 - 11:18 am

If the capacity is limited by the roads on either side, you might as well take a pair of lanes on the Verrazano away from cars and use them for trains then, right?

Joe Steindam September 2, 2015 - 3:52 pm

I’ve been told in the past that the need to provide ample clearance through the Narrows led to the design of approaches with steep grades unsuitable to rail service. But this just means that you can’t use the existing approach structure to bring over a subway.

The bigger problem is connecting into the subway, particularly on the Brooklyn side, 95th Street is too close to the bridge approach to make the descent at a suitable grade. Plus you then need to get underground and connect in somewhere with the subway, somehow getting underneath existing lines to make flying connections instead of dealing with flat junctions. I’m not sure you could do that effectively in Bay Ridge. The best solution I can come up with is staying at grade or above the BQE, potentially with some stations to give parts of Dyker Heights some subway access (which they might not want anyway) and get to the Bay Ridge Branch/Sea Beach open cut and connect in there between 8th Avenue and 59th Street. You’d also want a flying connection to the SIRR near the Grassmere station, and the SIRR has a tight corridor that might not be able to be widened without takings. The connection would be approximately 5 miles worth of track, much of which would be very difficult to engineer and would require significant roadway reconstruction.

Now this scenario is making numerous assumptions: first, that the bridge can actually accommodate the weight of train service on it’s main span (which is beyond my ability to estimate), and that anyone would go along with my crazy plan that removing lanes on the Verrazano won’t make traffic worse on the surrounding roadways. As we’ve seen with SBS implementation across NYC, it’s very tough politically to take roadway space and assign it to other uses. Also, the MTA has no incentive to have fewer vehicles cross the Verrazano, as it stands to lose toll revenue on it’s busiest bridge that supports its transit operations and capital program.

Kid Twist August 25, 2015 - 4:44 pm Reply
tacony August 26, 2015 - 1:55 pm

its $2.75 ticket will not integrate with the MTA’s MetroCard fare system or allow free transfers to subways and buses, city officials said at a community meeting Thursday night.

EDC officials claimed that the fare payment system could be integrated with the MTA’s once the agency phases out the MetroCard


As far as using the Metrocard, the Roosevelt Island tram and the PATH do it. As far as offering free transfers (and use of unlimited cards), Bee-Line bus and NICE bus do it.

Is the city basically resigned to not using the Metrocard ’cause they’re too lazy to make it happen? (They think pursuing it isn’t “worth it” because we’ll have a new payment technology in “only” about 8 years (and we know that’ll actually be 12 years)?). Or is there an actual reason why it’s not possible?

Red Hook, in particular, is a prime spot for ferry service. It’s surrounded by water, isolated from the subway system, and contains a high amount of lower- and middle-income housing

But the high amount of low and middle income housing is insulated from the water by industry and lower density housing. The Red Hook Houses are by far the most densely populated part of the neighborhood. The blocks around Van Brunt (what people call “the Back” of Red Hook) are fairly low density, interspersed with a lot of low-intensity commercial and industrial use. “The Back” of Red Hook aint teeming tenement blocks like the Lower East Side or something. It’s a sleepy neighborhood that feels like a small town. None of the proposed sites– by the city or the one proposed by the CB– are all that central to the Red Hook Houses.

Another note: this discussion assumes this ferry is only for Red Hook residents commuting to Manhattan, but of course they should also be thinking of people commuting to those industrial jobs in Red Hook. One would hope the scheduled service won’t just be peak-directional. The Atlantic Basin site has the benefit of being a little closer to more industrial job sites in the area around Commerce Street etc. But even looking at jobs, Red Hook isn’t that high density. Industrial jobs in general are harder to serve by transit. A lot of it is low density, 1-story uses. Jobs per square foot are necessarily low in these industries compared to say, an office building of white collar workers.

would New Yorkers be better off if the EDC simply invested the money in a better bus network for Red Hook or even a light rail system on a dedicated set of tracks running from Borough Hall to Red Hook to Smith/9th Sts.?

Absolutely. Or for less money and more quickly, EDC should simply pay for increased frequency of service and exclusive bus lanes on the existing B61 bus. The bus lanes probably aren’t needed in Red Hook itself, which is a low traffic neighborhood, but once you pass into Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, it’d be useful to speed it into Downtown Brooklyn to meet the trains.

tacony August 26, 2015 - 2:20 pm

Oh, also, while travel time could possibly be competitive from Red Hook, I don’t understand why more than a handful of people would take this ferry from Bay Ridge:

The CB6 transportation committee also unanimously voted to endorse the addition of a Governors Island stop.

If Governors Island isn’t included, the estimated commute time from Bay Ridge to Wall Street’s Pier 11 would be 43 minutes, while the Red Hook to Pier 11 portion would take only 24 minutes.

43 minutes from 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge to Wall Street (plus an extra minute or two if they put the Gov Island stop in)? Can somebody run the numbers on how many people who would have a quicker commute vs just taking the R train? The R train is scheduled at 27 minutes from Bay Ridge Ave to Whitehall. 32 minutes from 95th Street. It’s time-competitive for maybe the northwestern-most couple blocks in Bay Ridge? And that’s assuming you want to worry about frequencies, vs. a subway where you don’t have to worry about a schedule.

adirondacker12800 August 26, 2015 - 2:31 pm

what is on Governor’s Island that needs a stop during rush hour?

Vin August 26, 2015 - 2:33 pm

There are many idiotic things in this plan, but it does contain some kernels of a smaller network could work. Here are places where ferry service actually does make sense:

1) The Financial District. A major destination and most of the offices and things are actually within walking distance of the water. Good subway connectivity, as well.
2) Williamsburg/Greenpoint/LIC. Lots of new development on the water, plus crowded subways with stations far inland.
3) DUMBO. A destination in its own right – lots of tourists, plus some offices and lots of stores where people work, and some people live there. Decent subway connectivity – not great, but you’ve got the York St. F stop within walking distance.
4) Southeastern Staten Island. This would need to include bus connections and, yes, parking. There aren’t huge numbers of people or destinations near the water, but, the transit options from southern SI are so abysmal that people would probably ride a ferry provided they could take a bus or drive there.
5) Red Hook. Ben basically covers the arguments for this. It would need a good bus connection to work well.
6) LGA. I think a ferry to LGA could work if it was integrated into a route with other stops, and geared towards locals who are flying for personal reasons. The failed LGA ferry was a premium service aimed at business travelers. But the transit options to LGA are so bad for much of the city that I think a ferry would be popular enough – people who live in Brooklyn, say, I think would take the subway to DUMBO or the Financial District to avoid paying a $40 cab fare or trekking to Harlem or Queens to get the bus. It wouldn’t be revolutionary, but I think it would be useful.

Expecting a ferry to be anything more than a novelty to get anywhere in Manhattan north of FiDi is silly. All the destinations are inland. Stapleton? You can walk to St. George from there, it needs to be further south. Brooklyn Army Terminal? Hardly anyone lives around there. Astoria? The waterfront is mostly industrial. Coney Island and Bay Ridge? Eh – I’m open to persuasion on this one, but I’m not sold on it.

But a system with the some combination of the following routes could make sense:
Southern Staten Island > DUMBO > FiDi
Red Hook > DUMBO > FiDi > Williamsburg/Greenpoint > LIC > LGA

I’ve left 34th St. off this because, as I said, Midtown is quite ill-suited to ferries. But it is such a gigantic destination that keeping a stop there could make sense, even if you only capture a sliver of the market and leisure travelers.

adirondacker12800 August 26, 2015 - 3:31 pm

Midtown is quite ill-suited to ferries

Which is why people went out and built tunnels under the river….. WIth connections to the El.

It’s never going to be a major contributor but some people find it useful.


AlexB August 26, 2015 - 7:28 pm

Expanded ferry service can be a worthwhile thing to subsidize, but I’d hope there’s some actual discussion of where the subsidy will have the biggest impact in terms of ridership, and how those riders will be using it. It’s obvious that some of these routes will not be ridden by hardly anyone, like the Rockaway line that’s already been such a waste of money. And why start service to the Rockaways and Soundview a full year before the Lower East Side? Grand St is ¾ of a mile from the J & F and has a huge population of car-less households that might benefit from this, especially if integrated with a Metro Card. Seems like DeBlasio is missing his chance to make the city more equitable…

AlexB August 26, 2015 - 7:31 pm

Seems like whoever came up with these routes is missing bigger opportunities. Start this expansion by combining these routes into one or two long ‘local’ routes, allowing whatever agency ends up running this to see where people are actually going and why. The difference in speed won’t affect ridership because people don’t ride ferries for speed, they ride them for the experience. They might find that there is as much or more of a market for Upper East Side travel to Astoria or Greenpoint than there is from the Upper East Side to Pier 11; or, that there’s a lot of ridership between Staten Island and Brooklyn (consider weekend bike riders trying to explore another borough).

AlexB August 26, 2015 - 7:33 pm

Getting people to and from Midtown and Downtown is one thing the current bus & rail system does reasonable well. If you’re going to make a big push for ferries, explore more options that purposefully connect places that aren’t well connected by buses or trains, and try to make the most from possible ferry/subway connection to leverage the transit network you already have. For example, it probably wouldn’t be that hard to set up a dock at Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx near the Whitlock Av station on the 6. The ferry could start there, make a stop at Soundview, then cross the Sound to a dock at College Point, and then terminate at a new dock in Flushing near where Roosevelt Ave crosses Flushing River. You’d basically be connecting all of the 6 train in the Bronx with Soundview, College Point, and all of the 7 train and LIRR in Queens. Other good locations for subway/ferry connections could be on the Gowanus near the Smith-9th station; at 96th St on Upper East Side after 2nd Ave subway opens; and a few locations along the Harlem River – Marble Hill (1), 155th St (B/D), Yankee Stadium (Metro North), 145th St (3), & 138th St (4/5).

Derrick Chu August 28, 2015 - 9:32 pm

I live in the Wall Street area and would welcome additional Ferry transportation options. Without Ferries it would be hard getting to the Williamsburg, NJ and Brooklyn waterfronts. For those in other parts of the city near the water that don’t have ferry access, a ferry to the financial district is a great benefit. The FIDI is the nation’s third largest business center.

Phantom August 31, 2015 - 12:17 pm


The BAT isn’t close to anything. I used it a few years ago when there was service there. It was very lightly used and had zero foot traffic. I cannot tell you how remote and ugly that location is.

I don’t propose a St George – 69th St pier service only to connect St George and Bay Ridge.

At Saint George, you have a zillion bus lines that take you to every nook and cranny of SI.

At the 69th Street Pier, you already have two bus lines with frequent service that take you to

Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Borough Park, Bensonhurst, Midwood, Kings Plaza ( B9)


Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Coney Island ( B64)

The Bay Ridge buses cover parts of Brooklyn that existing SI-Brooklyn bus service do not serve. And again, all of SI is connected at the other end.

A ferry would restore a pattern of travel that existed for a very long time, for flows of people that still travel back and forth – by car, now, for the lack of a proper mass transit link.

–As for a SI to Bay Ridge ferry, I see the value, but again I question the Brooklyn destination. Because I don’t see Bay Ridge as a destination in it’s own right, but probably still a transfer to better transit systems, might a St. George ferry benefit from going to either the Brooklyn Army terminal at 58th Street, which gets you closer to an express stop with additional service compared to trains in Bay Ridge proper, or either Pier 6 or Fulton Landing to get you closer to the downtown Brooklyn job center?–

Ben S June 15, 2016 - 1:25 pm

I am wondering why they are not considering powered catamarans as a ferry choice, would reduce operating costs.


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