Water Taxi to Suspend Service

Original photo: Gowanus Lounge

The New York Water Taxi notified its customers today that is suspending East River service effective 1 January 2008. Commuter service will not resume until 1 May 2008.

In a flyer handed out to patrons this evening, NYWT cited noted that it “broke even during the spring, summer and fall when tourist used the commuter service for sightseeing” (the first time they’ve ever broken even). With ridership generally dropping 30% in the winter months, and the cost of fuel having doubled this past year, though, NYWT says it can no longer afford the operating losses.

The water taxi is expensive and only really convenient to a relatively small number of North Brooklyn residents, but it is a very civilized way to commute to and from midtown or lower Manhattan. And the rides in the winter are particularly enjoyable, in part because it is less crowded (not that its ever really that crowded), and in part because you get to see the city at night from the river. For those of use who do use the water taxi, this news certainly sucks.

I don’t live in Schaefer Landing, but I imagine this news sucks even more for residents of that development (and others in Hunters Point, which is also served by the water taxi). Particularly for those who bought into the project because of the water taxi and the easy commute to Wall Street. Its a long walk to the J train, and an even longer walk to the L.

But this news truly sucks for the deck hands and other employees of New York Water Taxi, who just got a big lump of coal in their Christmas stocking.

From a practical point of view, ferries and water taxis are of limited appeal to most commuters. They are expensive ($5 each way from Schaefer to Wall Street), and unless you live and work near the waterfront, require another $2 for a subway or bus. The service will hopefully do better when it opens stops at Northside Piers and Domino, but that’s a ways off. The City could make the water taxi a bit more appealing by providing subsidies, or by providing MetroCard transfers to eliminate the double fare hit. Anything that gets people off the L train and into the city without using a car seems to me to be a public benefit.

UPDATE: CityRoom has more information on the closing.