City is Seeking Long-Term Extension of Successful East River Ferry Service

The City has decided that the East River Ferry pilot program, started in June of 2011, has been such a success that they are going to make it permanent. To that end, they are issuing an RFP to find a a permanent operator – it is a competitive process, but they’d be hard-pressed to find a better operator than the one that they have now.

Meeting the requirements of the RFP could be a challenge, though:

Respondents to the RFP will be evaluated on the extent to which they can improve the existing service while significantly reducing or eliminating the need for public operating assistance. In addition, respondents have the opportunity to propose expansion of service, such as increased operating hours and new landing locations. [emphasis added]

Expanding service would be wonderful (personally, a ferry stop at Houston Street would be grand). But reducing public subsidies (currently about $3 million per year) would require a massive expansion in ridership (it is already exceeding all expectations), something that probably only happens when riders can make a free transfer to public transportation. More likely, reducing subsidies means raising fares (probably by at least a dollar a ride).