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6 June 2010

What New York Needs: More Water Taxis [✜]

Good NYT Op Ed on the need for - and barriers to - an expanded ferry system for NYC. Someone is listening to me.

Ferries are a growth opportunity. To add new routes, you don't need to dig a tunnel or lay a track. You don't need to reroute traffic, build bridges or add lanes. And in many parts of New York, unlike almost every other city, you wouldn't need to build big parking lots where riders could leave their cars. What cars?
What you need is a viable pier and a boat. You need a convenient way to get from water's edge to people's ultimate destinations. And you need someone to be in charge of it all...
It's hard to imagine ferry service expanding very far unless it becomes a public initiative, an integrated system with coordinated schedules and MetroCard access. But who would lead such an initiative? The Metropolitan Transportation Authority? The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey? The Department of Transportation? No one seems to know.

3 November 2008

More Water Taxi [✜]
NYology is reporting that NY Water Taxi is in a deal to buy Circle Line. That may explain the negotiations to keep the East River commuter line open into the winter.

Water Taxi Still Running [✜]


NY Water Taxi had announced that it was suspending its East River commuter service effective 1 November. Now, they've announced that they are "working with the City of New York to continue the East River ferry service through the winter months".

15 July 2008

Water Taxi Returns [✜]


Also while I was away, the Water Taxi returned to Shaefer Landing - finally! Months late, and more than half a year after the initial "seasonal" shutdown, service was finally restored to the full East River route on the 7th. And today, I enjoyed my first summer evening ride up the East River - as a special bonus, the voyage now includes an up-close look at the waterfalls.

Not that there's nothing to complain about - since last winter, NYWT has adjusted its afternoon commuter schedule, eliminating the 7:00 p.m. boat and adding a boat at 3 p.m. I'm not sure if that's for the bankers or the tourists, but it sucks for anyone who doesn't work in the financial sector (a growing proportion of downtown's workforce).

Still, it was a beautiful evening, and a great ride.

30 June 2008

Waiting for the Water Taxi [✜]

Yes, we're recycling this image, but its the same
old story.

For those of us who have been waiting for July, and the return of NY Water Taxi's East River Service, life continues to be a good news/bad news kind of thing.

The good news? As of today (30 June), NYWT has supposedly resumed its East River service.

I say supposedly, because as a Williamsburg resident, I would have no way of verifying this. That's because the bad news is that - according to the NYWT website - East River service will not include Schaefer Landing until 7 July.

Riding across the East River on the J train today, I noted (as I do just about every day) the singular lack of any docking structure at Schaefer Landing. Yes, the dock that was supposed to arrive in May, is still not there. Nor is there any activity around the area where one might expect a dock to be indicating that anyone is remotely interested in actually building a dock-like structure.

Not that I don't believe NYWT when they say service will resume on 7 July. Its just that we've all been, uh, mislead a few times over the past few months.

Meanwhile, I encourage everyone to try out the Ikea Express. It departs every 20 minutes from Pier 11 in Manhattan and runs right to Ikea's new Red Hook store. And its free! No purchase necessary. 36 boats a day - gratis (or fri, if we are getting in the Ikea spirit)! Amazing what a little subsidy will do. As far as I know, you don't even have to set foot in the big blue store. Go to the ball fields and get a taco. Go to Pier 41 in Red Hook for delicious key lime pie. Go to Baked on Van Brunt for more dessert. Go to Lenelles's for some good hootch. Go to Fairway for a decent selection of food (you won't find that in Williamsburg). Consider it your steal-this-book moment while you wait for NYWT to show up at Schaefer Landing with four pitiful boats every morning and four more in the afternoon.

21 May 2008

See the Big Apple Any Way You’d Like it Aboard New York Water Taxi [✜]

Here's some great tourist advice - hop aboard the New York Water Taxi and check out "the historic, artsy and vibrant neighbourhoods of Brooklyn including DUMBO and Williamsburg..."

Better pack a sandwich or two, though - the Water Taxi won't be stopping in DUMBO or Williamsburg until July.

Whither the Water Taxi?

Back in the coldest, darkest days of winter, when New York Water Taxi suspended service on its East River route, the company said that service would resume on May 1. In February NYWT pulled the water taxi dock out of Schaeffer Landing entirely. At the time, it was reported that the dock was to replaced […]

1 January 2008

Water Taxi Connections [✜]

In the comments section of my last post, Cap'n Transit points to an entry on his blog that brings up an aspect of making connections to the ferry that I had not considered. Namely, that the ferry companies do it. The Cap'n mentions the success that New York Waterway (the "Jersey ferry") has had with running shuttle buses both in Manhattan and New Jersey. Imperatore and company figured out long ago that without connections on the land side, ferries were really only useful to people who lived and worked within a short walk of the ferry. By providing an extensive shuttle service on land, NYWW has greatly expanded its customer base. By doing so, they effectively eliminate the need to get on public transit in Manhattan, thus eliminating the two fare problem (in the process, though, adding to the congestion on Manhattan streets).1

I'd recommend reading Cap'n Transit's original blog post (Water Taxi: What If?). He also touches on the issue of accessibility that I discussed, but from the point of view of LIC commuters. The formula remains the same (live near the ferry, work near the ferry - no problem), he just provides more and different examples. The rest of the blog is also worth a tour.

1. NYWW has an advantage over New York Water Taxi (the "East River ferry"), in that NYWW is a much bigger operation, and can thus better afford to run an extensive shuttle service. The incremental cost per fare (which is surely included in the fare) is thus pretty negligible.

30 December 2007

Water Taxi Press Conference [✜]

Councilmember David Yassky at the NYWT press conference.

On Saturday there was a press conference at Schaeffer Landing to push for the preservation of NY Water Taxi service through the winter. The press conference was held by Council members Eric Gioia (Queens) and David Yassky (Brooklyn), and was attended by 30 or 40 water taxi patrons.

Between them, Gioia and Yassky probably represent 90% of the commuters on the water taxi. Both pols were pushing the Bloomberg administration to subsidize the water taxi to keep it operation. Gioia noted, quite rightly, that we should be "expanding water access, not cutting back".

No doubt, the water taxi is an important adjunct to local mass transit. More important, though, it is an important perk for luxury waterfront development. As a frequent, though not regular, patron of the water taxi, I certainly hope that it will be back in business soon (like, next Wednesday). But before the subsidies start flowing, lets recognize some of the shortcomings of the water taxi, and see if maybe government can't step in smartly.

First, the water taxi is not cheap. The current fare from Schaeffer Landing to Wall Street is about $5.00 each way if you buy tickets in lots of 10. There is a monthly commuter pass, but that costs just under $200.

Second, the water taxi is only convenient to places near the water. Unless you live AND work near a water taxi stop, you'll need to add in the cost of a bus or subway, which will take your daily commute (round trip) to $14. So unless (like me) you live AND work reasonably close to the water taxi, a daily commute will run you 3.5 times the cost of a subway commute (even without the added cost of a subway/bus connection, the water taxi is 2.5 times the cost of mass transit).

Third, the water taxi runs hourly, three times in the morning and four times in the evening. The latest run out of Schaeffer Landing each morning is 9:20. Fine if you work banker hours, not so hot if you don't.

That means that for the water taxi to be viable without a double fare, you probably live near the waterfront in northern Brooklyn Heights, southern Dumbo, southern Williamsburg, or southern Long Island City, and you work either in Lower Manhattan or in the far east 30s (Bellvue/NYU hospital area). But you don't work any of the swing shifts at Bellvue/NYU, and you may not be one of the increasing numbers of non-fiancial types working in the financial district.

(And I'll add in a fourth shortcoming - the water taxi is not always the most reliable means of transport. I've had it show up 40 minutes late for an evening run. And with no notice as to when the boat will actually show.)

All that said, the water taxi is a great resource. Between the JMZ and the water taxi (and the occasional ride across the Williamsburg Bridge), my reliance on the L train in the past year has become occasional at best. The JMZ is still the preferred means of transit (when I'm not on two wheels), but I take the water taxi about a third of the time. And it is by far the quickest and most relaxing way to get to the city - from Williamsurg, its 10 minutes to Wall Street (about 3 minutes from Fulton Ferry) - and the whole way you are able to sit back and watch the city float by.

But taking into account all of the above, how should we city subsidize the water taxi (if it should). First off, I think that the people that should be stepping up to the plate with wallets open are the developers and condo associations of waterfront property. The developers have sold (or are selling) their luxury units on the basis of convenient access to the city via water taxi. They (and the condo owners themselves) have the most to lost if the water taxi disappears, or (just as bad) becomes a seasonal means of transport. So in terms of direct subsidies to keep the water taxi running all year long, most, if not all of any subsidies should be coming from them.

The city, though, should recognize the value of the water taxi. It takes commuters off already crowded subway lines (like the L and the 7). It makes previously remote areas of the city more accessible and more open to new development (and the more profitable those developments are, the better they will be able to support the affordable housing components that are part and parcel of the development). What the city should try to subsidize is a viable water taxi system that integrates with the existing mass transit system (i.e., free transfers), expands service (i.e., longer hours) and makes the service more affordable (i.e., lower fares in general).

In terms of lowering fares, the city's help here should be temporary. As water taxi service expands, and more waterfront developments come on line, basic economics says that the cost per ride should come down. How far it comes down is another question, but it should come down. But until the water taxi achieves that level of viability, there is a public interest served in subsidizing service (even if it be through loans rather than direct subsidies). Until then, I'll be taking the J train or (weather permitting) the bridge.

More here:
Pol urges Mike to shore up river taxi [NYDN]
Lawmakers call on city to subsidize water taxis [7Online]
Local Lawmakers Call On City To Offer Water Taxi Service [NY1]
Lawmakers call on city to subsidize water taxis [Newsday]

Water Taxi Update

Obviously, a lot of daily commuters on the water taxi are not happy about its impending suspension of service. A group of riders has started to organize to try to get some restoration of service before 1 May 2008 (NYWT’s announced date). Tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 11:00 am there will be a meeting at the […]