The East River Ferry pilot program has been providing ferry service to waterfront neighborhoods in all five boroughs since June of 2011, and the experiment, set to run for three years, has already far exceeded the numbers projected for ridership: More than 715,000 riders have used it since the pilot began, almost double initial estimates. Now officials are deciding if, and how, to make it permanent and financially sustainable, given dramatic fluctuations in fuel costs.
Although the big ridership numbers could be partly attributed to the End of Winter, it does seem like New Yorkers are generally excited about commuting via boat. And with the rapid development of NYC's waterfront into a bourgeois residential playland, more New Yorkers are making their homes closer to the city's 520 miles of waterways. Within a half mile of the landings in Brooklyn and Queens, over 6,000 units have been built in the last three or four years, and another 2000 or so are under construction and over 20,000 additional units are planned.
Yesterday afternoon, City Council members James Vacca, Michael Nelson, and a few others held a joint hearing to learn more about the ferry. Advocates for making the ferry service permanent argue that if coordinated properly with the city's bike share program, the ferry could take more cars off the streets and ease the lives of many commuters—not just waterfront residents—who would appreciate the opportunity to get off of a crowded L train. Roland Lewis, president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, also wants commuters to have the option of paying for ferry service with their MetroCards.
Currently, if you ride the East River Ferry, which is operated by BillyBey Ferry Company, your ride is $4. If you want an unlimited monthly pass, it will cost you $140 in addition to any MetroCard fees. For now, however, you can buy tickets using credit card or cash at automated kiosks at every ferry landing. And if you want to check out the East River Ferry for yourself, hop on at one of the nine stops it makes in Long Island City, Green Point, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Governors Island and along the east side of Manhattan. The ferries depart every 20 minutes during peak hours, every 30 minutes during weekday off peak hours and every 45 minutes on weekends.