Expanded Ferry Service Coming in June


Map: NYT

More details are emerging on the new expanded East River ferry service, and it is mostly very good news (unless you are NY Water Taxi, which seems to be getting cut out of the picture). This doesn’t solve the myriad transportation issues for Greenpoint and Williamsburg, but for people who can use the service, it will be a huge benefit.

Come June, the service will expand from Greenpoint (India Street) and Northside Williamsburg (North 5th Street). Existing stops at LIC, East 34th Street, Schaefer Landing, Fulton Ferry and Wall Street will remain. Having more stops will alleviate the biggest problem with the profitability of the existing Water Taxi service – lack of critical mass. Face it, Schaefer Landing is a great convenience for residents of those buildings, but the stop isn’t going to draw big numbers. Greenpoint and Northside will.

The service hours will also expand, with the ferry running from 7:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night, and running every 20 minutes during peak commuter hours (service will be every 30 minutes off-peak during the summer, and every hour off-peak winter). And there will now be weekend service. (The Water Taxi runs hourly, three boats in the morning and three in the evening, with a seasonal hop-on service on Summer weekends.) The new weekend service will also include stopes at Pier 6 (Atlantic Avenue) in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island during Summer months.

At least one of the transportation break issues is addressed too – there will be a free shuttle bus taking riders west on 34th Street in Manhattan. (The Post is saying that the bus service will include Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center and Grand Central (all well north of 34th Street), which would be even greater news.) This means that people who work near 34th Street won’t have to pay two fares to commute to work. (Health care workers of North Brooklyn rejoice!)

For others, the commute might at least be getting cheaper. Fares will now range from $3 to $5 each way (vs. $4.50 and $5.50 on the Water Taxi today). There will be two zones – a Downtown zone covering the Williamsburg stops, Fulton Ferry and Wall Street, and a Midtown zone covering Greenpoint, LIC and 34th Street. Trips within the zone will be $3, out of the zone $5. (The Post says the zones will be three stops, rather than fixed areas, which would mean that a trip from North 5th Street to India Street won’t cost $5.) Part of the lower cost is thanks to a $9 million City subsidy over three years (though the existing Water Taxi service is subsidized to some extent).

The new service will be run by a subsidiary of NY Waterway (subject to an approval from EDC, which is expected today). The Post reports that NY Water Taxi, which bid on the RFP for the new routes, will likely discontinue its East River commuter service on April 30, leaving commuters with at least one month without service. What this means long-term for NY Water Taxi is not at clear – they are a much smaller operation than NY Waterway, and will probably now have to focus on seasonal tourist/recreation business (which they’ve always said was the subsidy for the commuter service).

In the news:

Long-Awaited East River Ferry Will Finally Dock in June [Curbed]
New York Water Taxi Squeezed Out of East River Routes by NY Waterway [Post]
Ferries to Ply East River Far More Regularly Soon [NYT]
New Ferry Service Floated for East River [WSJ, $]