New York City’s ferry service is set to get cheaper for at least 1 million New Yorkers and pricier for tourists, Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday.
Under the changes set to take effect on September 12, low-income New Yorkers, those age 65 and older and people with disabilities can purchase a single NYC Ferry ride for $1.35. The cost of a single ferry ride will go from $2.75 to $4 for tourists or infrequent riders. Modeled after the MTA’s Fair Fares program, the new program — dubbed the NYC Ferry Discount Program — is intended to increase usage among low-income New Yorkers while reducing commuting times.
“For those who just say [the ferry is] just for the affluent New Yorkers, it’s just wrong. It is for every New Yorker,” Adams said Thursday at Astoria Ferry Landing. “The more we introduce New Yorkers to utilize it, they’re going to see how possible it is to move about this city.”
This fare increase for some is to offset the lower cost for low-income New Yorkers and help fund the ferry system, Adams said. New Yorkers must purchase 10-trip packs for $27.50 to keep the ferry ticket price the same for them. The city is also lifting the $1.00 bike fee on ferry tickets.
NYC Ferry, which services more than 6 million riders a year, has been criticized for receiving large subsidies from New York City taxpayers, despite its low ridership that skews toward more affluent income brackets.
A new audit by City Comptroller Brad Lander revealed that the city underreported nearly $244 million worth of expenses dating back to 2015, when the ferry service started under former Mayor Bill de Blasio. While riders paid $2.75 for each ride, the city actually subsidized $12.88 per trip, according to the audit report. Lander at the time suggested charging more for tourists to use the service.
“Everything we are doing is driving towards bringing that subsidy gap down,” Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said on Thursday in response to the audit’s findings. “But we also live in the real world […] we’re in a hyperinflationary moment - I don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”
Kimball said the city will put out “voluminous data” relating to all costs of the ferry system, as the NYCEDC outlined in its response to the audit. Higher prices may decrease ridership, but the city will analyze the $4 price for a single ride over the next year and may adjust it, Kimball said..
During her pre-stated press conference at City Hall on Thursday, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said she did not have a chance to delve into all the details of the announcement, but offered an initial optimistic review. She was particularly pleased with the discounted fare program for low-income riders.
“If the piece of it you are referencing is anything like Fair Fares, I think it’s a wonderful thing to do,” said Adams, who pushed for even greater investments to the Fair Fares program that’s now included in the city’s budget.
The mayor’s office estimates the new ferry system will bring in $2 million additional revenue to the city.