Ferry good news for commuters

Ferry good news for commuters
Photo by Tom Callan

This boat’s afloat!

City officials are happy as clams with a new East River commuter ferry, which more than 9,800 people boarded in its first three days of paid service.

“I would call this a roaring success,” said Economic Development Chairman Seth Pinsky, whose agency is administering the service.

New York Waterway signed a three-year $9.3-million contract with the city earlier this year and launched its expanded ferry route this month, picking up waterfront commuters in DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint before dropping them off at Wall Street and Midtown.

After providing two weeks worth of free rides, the company began charging $4 for single rides on Saturday.

No one knew if commuters would flinch at the price. But the numbers have been good.

“It’s less crowded, but it seems to be running very smoothly,” said Community Board 1 member Ward Dennis, who took the ferry on Monday and Tuesday. “I’ll probably take it a few times a week at least.”

The city estimated that if the ferry could attract 400,000 riders in its first year, the service would be successful. Early ridership is ahead of that pace — but then again, it’s the summer.

A previous ferry operator, New York Water Taxi, fizzled over the past three years because of lack of all-year commuters and city subsidies.

But Billybey Ferry Company CEO Paul Goodman was confident his company would avoid a similar fate, noting that ridership has “exceeded our expectations” and was confident “high demand” for the boats would continue through the year.

So far, New York Waterway recorded 4,500 rides over the weekend plus another 2,824 on Monday. An additional 2,750 people rode the ferry on Tuesday, New York Waterway officials said.

Goodman can count on transit loyalty from Williamsburg commuters such as Priscilla Terrero, who compared the service to “free yoga,” and contemplated buying an unlimited monthly pass for the summer months.

“It’s so relaxing! It’s just a great idea and it’s right there,” said Terrero. “My commute is about the same time as if I was taking the L, but I get to see the city from another angle.”

Crowds are enjoying the new East River ferry service.
Photo by Tom Callan