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Ferry good news! New East River service to begin next month

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Manhattan-bound commuters will get new express service — albeit on the river rather than under it.

Sometime pretty much around mid-June (probably!), New York Waterway will launch service connecting Greenpoint, Williamsburg and DUMBO to Lower Manhattan and Midtown every 20 minutes for $4 a ride.

The city-subsidized service amounts to the latest riverboat gamble for an administration that has seen earlier service sink. Even with a three-year, $9.3-million subsidy — up from zero for a prior operator — it is unclear if enough paying customers will keep this boat afloat.

“It’s going to take time to build traffic,” said New York Waterway CEO Paul Goodman. “Right now, it is all a question of frequency — and 20-minute frequency is what you need so that people don’t think of it as appointment ridership.”

A rival company’s service failed in 2009 after failing to get any subsidy from the city.

Goodman hopes his two-deck, 74-foot catamarans will do better by providing fast, reliable service seven days a week.

On weekdays, each ferry can pick up a maximum of 100 passengers beginning at 7 am from piers on India Street in Greenpoint, N. Sixth Street and Schaefer Landing in Williamsburg, and Fulton Ferry in DUMBO and drop them off at either Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan or East 35th Street in Midtown.

And during peak hours, between 7 am and 9:30 am and between 4:30 pm and 7 pm, commuters leaving DUMBO can get to Wall Street in as little as eight minutes and those leaving Greenpoint can get to Midtown in as little as 10.

On Fridays and the weekend, the ferry will add stops at Atlantic Avenue and Governors Island beginning at 9 am and ending at 8 pm — essentially cutting travel time between North Brooklyn and Governors Island in half.

Boosters said it would change our lives forever.

“It addresses a problem that a lot of us face on a daily basis, that is, how do you get from Williamsburg and Greenpoint to the rest of Brooklyn other than the G train,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint), who said he would take the boat frequently.

But titanic challenges loom like an iceberg — dead ahead!

The city has forecasted that a ferry provider must lure about 718,000 commuter and recreational riders per year, in order to meet its costs, according to a 2011 study.

That’s tough given the prices: it’ll cost $4 to pay the ferryman for a single ride, of $140 for a monthly pass, significantly more than the $2.25 single ride and $104 monthly unlimited ride offered by the MTA.

Updated 2:19 pm, October 31, 2013: Updated to reflect a vague start date, as per the company's wishes.
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Reader Feedback

Mike from Williamsburg says:
“It addresses a problem that a lot of us face on a daily basis, that is, how do you get from Williamsburg and Greenpoint to the rest of Brooklyn other than the G train,” said Councilman Steve Levin

Oh, I don't know. The B62, B48, or B43? A bike? It's not that hard.

I guess this will be useful to people who live right on the water and only like to go to places right on the water.
May 26, 2011, 8:36 am
VoiceOfTruth from 11211 says:
The initially proposed price would have attracted a lot more customers. Any reduction in L passengers is a good thing though.
May 26, 2011, 9:31 am
sal from kensington says:
A waste of the $93 million tax payer dollars. If these companies need a taxpayer subsidy they shouldn't exist.
This $ 93 million dolars coulkd keep all of the Fire Houses on the Chopping block open for at least 2 years. Where are the city's priorities?
May 26, 2011, 10:36 am
Mary from Grnpt says:
Total waste of $. Who's going to take this ferry? Why not an express bus to Manhattan? Why not address the real issue: that the G & L subway lines are in need of serious help due to overcrowding.
May 26, 2011, 11:04 am
Jake Lodwick from Williamsburg says:
> A waste of the $93 million tax payer dollars. If these companies need a taxpayer subsidy they shouldn't exist.

Exactly -- although it's 9.3mm, not 93.

But still, why on earth does this business need $3,100,000 a year to operate? (In addition to the fares?!)

Maybe there's good reason (I know nothing about ferries), but I'd love to see their budget in detail. If we're footing the bill, they should open the budget to public examination.
May 26, 2011, 1:14 pm
Dan from Park Slope says:
In response to questions about the need for a subsidy, I think the city's idea is that you don't yet have adequate demand to support a 100% private service. But if you guarantee a high quality ferry service, over time travel patterns will change, and as the waterfront continues to densify, more people will habitually use the ferry. Basically, the plan is for the current subsidy to be an investment in long term ferry system development.

With the Water Taxi service, service was infrequent and uncertain. It would have been very hard to shape travel patterns around that service because it could be gone a month later. The subsidy does seem a bit high, but the operating ratio for the subways and buses is also only about 0.64, meaning they also require massive, ongoing subsidies (as is standard for public transit in wealthy countries).

$9 million has been spent on worse ideas. If successful this service could be a catalyst. Personally I support the plan.
May 26, 2011, 2:42 pm
Laura from Greenpoint says:
I'd love to see this service happen in Greenpoint, however, at $4 a ride, I won't be able to use it. If the price was lower I think it would be win for everybody.
May 26, 2011, 5:50 pm
VoiceOfTruth from 11211 says:
Its about time some of the tax money actually went back to the commuters who paid taxes. I'm all for subsidyies that offer more transportation alternatives to city residents. They are not raising taxes to pay for this. Subsidies and handouts are are not only for poor people housing, rich people's businesses and various other pet projects, they should also improve the lives of the city's working people.
May 26, 2011, 6:01 pm
sam from midwood says:
These ferries are too slow. We need to get into the 21 Century. We need to use Hydrofoil boats. This would speed up the frequency .
These other ferries just won't do it.
May 27, 2011, 10:41 am
Vinny from Morris Park, BX says:
Let's see...

Closing firehouses...

Lowering subway service frequency...

Cutting bus routes...

Firing teachers...

Throwing $3m a year at a boat to connect the most transportationally connected part of the city to the second most connected part of the city.

One of these things just doesn't belong here...

Honestly, this is an absurd waste of money.
May 27, 2011, 11:36 am
Stacey from Gpoint says:
First of all--gas... subsidized, the meat you probably eat... subsidized... almost every commodity in this country is subsidized. The airplane and train (amtrak) services are too, hell, even the MTA is.. I think shooting down this idea b/c it's subsidized to get it going is just silly. How would it stand a chance otherwise? I agree with Dan in Pk Slope.

And, I'm all for improving the G and L lines and expanding bus service, too. I don't see this as an either/or situation especially as there are more and more residents living on or near these waterfront locales, some of which are way far from other modes of public transportation, esp. LIC and South W'burg.

I think the more public transportation options the better, frankly, and one that capitalizes on our waterways is a great idea. Sure it's a bit more expensive, but to actually enjoy my commute appreciating the beauty of the city, I'll take it. Express buses are more than the subway or bus lines, too.

I'm sure service, transfer issues, pricing and rules for riding (like bikes, please, esp with Gov's Island being a stop!) may be tweaked, but for right now I'm happy to see an investment in public works and get off the ground.

Instead of criticizing it, ride it, advocate and any necessary changes to improve it will come.

Finally, I've lived here for over 15 yrs and I'm a teacher. Believe me, this is NOT a waste a money and I don't think you can honestly argue otherwise unless you directly affects you.
May 28, 2011, 10:48 pm
KB from Greenpoint says:
Well, I guess it's worth one more shot. But as Mike pointed out it's only worth it if you're going from coast to coast.

Some of the Financial District is located right by the water, but for Midtown 34th Street is at least several long blocks away from most office buildings. And none of the docks offer a direct connection to the subway, if you do need to transfer.

Up here in North Brooklyn, in most cases you'll still be better off taking the L or even the G. Snicker all you want, but even it arrives more often than three times an hour (at least during rush hour!)

It looks to me the target market will be residents of the new towers in Williamsburg, LIC, and Greenpoint (someday), lucky enough to either work near Wall Street on in a very small corner of midtown.

It will also be interesting how this holds up in the winter... it gets kind of chilly on the water.
May 31, 2011, 1:02 am
Karen from Williamsburg says:
There is a free bus that will take commuters down 34th street to a subway... But lots of people can walk too. Many people work around that area anyway.

If people can afford it, then why shouldn't they be able to take the boat? Besides, why do the stinky sweaty subway riders want even more people on their train? I am sick of all the negativity. They should be happy it might be less crowded. They also didn't want any new construction by the water, but they are the first ones to use the pier and come to the great flea market on North 6th every weekend. Live and let live. Besides, how nice is it to show up for work fresh, instead of smelling like sweat and garlic from your fellow train riders?
Cheers to the supporters. This will it's challenges, but so does everything, right?
May 31, 2011, 11:19 am

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