Dramatically expanded subsidized ferry service will begin operating in all five boroughs starting in 2017, mayor de Blasio announced yesterday. The East River ferry, launched by de Blasio's predecessor, currently shuttles passengers to a limited number of stops in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan along the East River, for $4 a ticket on weekdays and $6 on weekends. The new ferry service will be cheaper—Blasio promised yesterday that "new ferry rides will be priced the same as a MetroCard fare."
The service will be operated by private companies receiving government subsidies. De Blasio said he plans to allocate an initial $55 million in capital investment for the first five routes (excluding the Stapleton/Coney Island routes), and anticipates an annual city subsidy between $10-$20 million to keep the whole thing afloat. If completed as envisioned, the expansion would likely be the largest municipal ferry service in the United States, in terms of passenger use.
The first additional routes, serving South Brooklyn, Astoria, and Rockaway, will not begin service until 2017, with the Bronx (Soundview) and Lower East Side routes starting some time in 2018. A route connecting Wall Street's Pier 11 (the main ferry transfer hub) to Staten Island (Stapleton) and Coney Island does not currently have an estimated timeline.
A 2013 analysis of ferry service by the New York City Economic Development Corporation cited a property value increase of 8% for properties within walking distance of ferry stops, over comparable property values further from ferry stops, and $24 million in new annual tax revenue to the City.
Many, like State Senator Daniel Squadron, immediately embraced de Blasio's announcement, but others remain skeptical. Gene Russianoff at the Straphangers Campaign is much more enthusiastic about de Blasio's plan to expand Bus Rapid Transit, "which can be built quickly and cheaply. But if he wants to really move ahead on ferries, he'll need to find someone with a lot of cash on hand and a taste for risk."
A subsidized commuter ferry service to Far Rockaway that began after Hurricane Sandy ended last year, despite considerable outcry from peninsula residents. Yesterday Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) applauded de Blasio's announcement that service would be restored, but said 2017 isn't good enough. "Our families and small businesses are suffering today and need service implemented immediately,” Goldfeder said in a statement. "Our ferry dock at Beach 108th was disassembled and shipped away overnight. It should not take two years to bring it back."