By Sabina Mollot
One year after the launch of NYC Ferry, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that ridership along the city’s waterways could grow to as many as 9 million annual passengers by 2023. This is twice as many passengers as were initially projected, so in anticipation of commuters abandoning the subway and flocking to ferries, the city will be nearly doubling its fleet of boats. For this purpose, $300 million has already been socked away for use over the next several years.
The funds will go towards three new 350-passenger capacity ferries (by late this summer) along the busiest routes and a second homeport where ferries will be maintained and repaired. There will also be improvements to the two main ferry terminals, Pier 11/Wall Street and East 34th Street. These include wider gangways and new bow-loading locations to increase the number of vessels that can dock simultaneously. Infrastructure improvements and upgrades are also planned for existing barges and landings to accommodate larger crowds. Eight charter vessels will also be deployed this summer, each with capacity between 250-500 passengers.
Commuters will also see increases in service. Boats will be arriving every 20-30 minutes on weekdays and weekends on all four routes. Additionally, beginning on Memorial Day Weekend, Governors Island will be the last stop on the East River and South Brooklyn routes. This is aimed at increasing service to the popular summer destination.
No changes were mentioned specifically for the ferry stop at Stuyvesant Cove, although it, along with four other stops on the Lower East Side route, is expected to open late this summer, which would be on schedule.
“I am glad our city is continuing to invest in our ferry system, especially in advance of the opening of the new stop this summer at Stuyvesant Cove,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “East Siders can now count on even more reliable service, space on the ferries and an overall improved transit experience.”
The Lower East Side route, which will run from Wall Street to Long Island City in 32 minutes, according to official data, is one of two new routes under construction. The other is Soundview. Existing routes are: East River, Rockaway, South Brooklyn and Astoria. According to the mayor’s announcement on Thursday at a ferry landing in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the city’s Economic Development Corporation will study potential route expansions later this year.
“We all know the famous phrase, if you build it they will come,” the mayor said on Thursday. “Well, they have come and they have come and they have come in numbers much greater than we ever could have imagined.”
De Blasio added, “New Yorkers have spoken. We’re going to need bigger boats.”
The ferries are operated by Hornblower and the price of a ride is $2.75. All ferries will eventually have Wi-Fi and charging stations.
In related news, NYC Ferry is hiring for over 75 jobs, including captains, deckhands and customer service agents. To apply, visit ferry.nyc.