There’s no such thing as a free launch.
Ikea will discontinue its universal free water taxi service and begin charging riders $5 each way to travel by sea on weekdays to the Red Hook megastore if they don’t spend $10 in the home-furnishings and Swedish-meatballs palace.
The Aug. 3 fare hike is part of a summer transit shuffle at the one-year-old store that will extend the hours of the daily water taxi from 11 am to 9 pm between store’s private dock and Pier 11 in Manhattan.
“We cannot continue … a commuter service for those who are not Ikea customers,” said manager Mike Baker.
Weekend ferry service will remain free of charge to all comers and the shuttle bus service to subway stations, now running from 1 to 9 pm daily, is also complimentary.
The water taxi and shuttle bus service became instantly popular when the store opened last year and boats were actually so crowded at one point that Ikea caused an uproar when its customers were allowed to board the water taxis before non-shoppers.
Ikea provided the mass transit options in order to win public support for the big-box retail store that many hostile critics thought would clog Red Hook’s quiet streets. A recent report found that Ikea-related traffic was less than predicted.
Under the new ticketing system, everyone boarding in Manhattan must pay the $5 fare, but passengers who spend more than $10 in the store will have the round-trip fare deducted from their total.
As expected, no one is eager to shell out $10 for the ride and some warned it will be bad for Red Hook overall.
“Nobody would come here if the ferry wasn’t free,” said Jonay Winters, a visitor waiting for the ride back to Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. “Red Hook is out of the way. People aren’t going to take a bus or a train to get here.”
Others simply don’t like the congestion-pricing solution that Ikea is imposing.
“They shouldn’t charge more, they should just have more ferries,” said Flavia Walters.