Starting Wednesday, the MTA will no longer offer ferry service between Manhattan and Long Island City for Long Island Railroad commuters impacted by ongoing emergency repair work at Penn Station. The MTA has said for weeks that ferry service has not proven popular for riders, but declined to provide specific data. Our own reporting suggested extreme underutilization: during a recent evening rush hour, 250-person capacity ferries were seen crisscrossing the East River with no more than three passengers per trip.
"To date, most commuters have elected to continue to travel by train on altered routes with expanded capacity and fare reduction incentives," the MTA stated.
Ferry service from Manhattan to Glen Cove, which has proven comparatively popular with dozens of riders on each trip, will remain in effect.
Shuttle bus service from park-and-ride stations on Long Island will also be reduced on Wednesday, for the second time. Initially, charter buses departed every 20 to 30 minutes between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. from eight Long Island locations on weekdays. Service was slashed entirely from three stops within a week. Now, the remaining five stops will run once per hour, rather than twice: between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., and from Penn Station between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
The near-empty buses have been almost too good to be true for some riders: smooth, and quiet.
"I was truly the only person [on my bus]," 50-year-old Marina Molina from Melville told Gothamist earlier this month, adding, "It's just a quiet and nice straight commute, as opposed to stopping on the railroad, and I guess the [lack of] noise really. I'll tell you, it's been a smooth ride."
— Emma Whitford (@emma_a_whitford) July 12, 2017
"The MTA continues to evaluate customer travel options during Amtrak’s emergency repair work at Penn Station this Summer," the agency stated. Full schedules are available here.
At a heated MTA board meeting last week, MTA CFO Bob Foran put a price tag on these and other 'Summer of Hell' contingencies: $58 million, to come out of the MTA's $155 million in general reserves. The MTA is hoping Amtrak will ultimately reimburse them, though Amtrak has said bluntly that it won't.
An MTA spokesman said Monday that some cost reductions are expected once these service changes go into effect, but did not provide specifics.
"I think a shift of legal resources by the MTA to focusing on capturing payment from Amtrak is misguided, with due respect," Veronica Vanterpool, a mayoral appointee to the MTA board, said at a recent meeting. "I think this is an example of how at times this agency goes astray in its priorities."