Is a City-Wide Ferry Service Feasible?

For decades now, ferries have been a small slice of the pie that is New York City’s transportation system. The general assumption is that ferries in NYC, with the exception of the Staten Island Ferry, are not suitable for mass transit, and are mostly used by high-income riders for overpriced fares. The fact of the matter is, as has always been the case for New York City—on-land transportation is overwhelmed.

First announced in de Blasio’s 2015 State of the City address, within the next few years more boats will be traversing the city waters, providing transportation to more civilians for prices similar to current subway fares, to all 5 boroughs in the city. An expanded ferry service would complete a versatile transportation system that can accommodate and develop accordingly with the demands of its population. It can help decongest routes and shorten commutes for many commuters, with wondrous views of the harbor and Manhattan, and fresh air that ferries can provide.

But are the logistics of de Blasio’s idealistic new system plausible? Looking to the past attempts, the answer is, no. Several past attempted expansions have failed, with the recurring problem of low ridership for certain areas. The $55M dollar proposed solution is to attract more consistent passengers, by providing unfailing and convenient service based on demand, not politics, according to CrainsNewYork. If the plan succeeds, it’ll be a major feat for the De Blasio administration.

The proposed new system will transport riders starting from the Rockaways, Astoria and south Brooklyn to Wall Street, with stops along the way. This system will be launched June 2017, which is apparently the best time of the year to gain ridership. Additionally, plans for two more ferry routes to the Lower East Side and Soundview in the Bronx will be launched in 2018. The ferry systems will be integrated with the MTA subway system, providing free transfers from the ferry to the subway, and vice versa; as well as providing access to and from neighborhoods with little to no transportation available. With growing employment hubs between all neighborhoods that will be touched by the new ferry service, there will be plenty of opportunities for commercial growth at the proposed stations.

March of this year, de Blasio also announced that the operator of the construction project will be Hornblower, a California-based company that runs cruises to the Statue of Liberty. Docks for the project are currently under construction at a factory in Staten Island.