On Thursday, May 3, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that NYC Ferry’s ridership could grow to as many as 9 million annual passengers by 2023, twice as many passengers as initially projected, and that the City will invest in a bigger ferry fleet to meet that demand. The Executive Budget includes $300 million in new capital over the next several years for new 350-passenger capacity ferries, improvements to piers and docks, and a second homeport where ferries will be maintained and repaired. The Mayor made the announcement in Bay Ridge, where new ferry service launched last year.
“New Yorkers have spoken. We’re going to need bigger boats,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We’re gearing up to meet the extraordinary demand for more public transit on our waterways.”
NYC Ferry launched on May 1, 2017. Original projections predicted 4.6 million riders once all six routes are operational and fully rolled-out. However, NYC Ferry carried 3.7 million passengers in its first year, with only four routes operating—and only two of them running for the entire 12 months. Updated projections based on the first year of service now show that demand could reach as high as 9 million riders per year by 2023.
The final two routes of the first phase of ferry service – Soundview and the Lower East Side – are expected to begin operating in late summer 2018. They join the four existing routes: East River, Rockaway, South Brooklyn and Astoria. The City’s Economic Development Corporation will study potential route expansions later this year.
The City is preparing to invest $300 million in capital over the next five years, including $35 million in Fiscal Year 2019. Those investments will include: Increasing capacity by expanding ferry fleet, nearly doubling its size; a second homeport facility to house and maintain the expanded fleet, in addition to the first homeport at the Brooklyn Navy Yard nearing completion; infrastructure improvements and upgrades to existing NYC Ferry barges and landings to accommodate larger crowds; improvements to the City’s two main ferry terminals, Pier 11/Wall Street and E 34th Street, which see the highest traffic on a daily basis. These include wider gangways and new bow-loading locations to increase the number of vessels that can dock simultaneously.
Preparations for a busy spring and summer are in full swing. To meet the expected surge in demand, NYC Ferry will: Deploy 3 brand new 350-passenger capacity NYC Ferry boats by later this summer to service the busiest routes; deploy up to 8 charter vessels this summer, each with capacity between 250-500 passengers; beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Governors Island will now be the last stop on the East River and South Brooklyn routes, increasing service to the popular summer destination; increase service frequency with boats arriving every 20-30 minutes on weekdays and weekends on all four routes, compared to 25-60 headways for the same service last summer; launch a new express service on the Rockaway route to and from Pier 11/Wall Street during weekday rush hour and on weekends, doubling capacity during these busiest times; increase service from Brooklyn Army Terminal by 20 percent on the Rockaway route; increase staffing at ferry landings to assist riders with queuing and boarding.
Since its launch one year ago, NYC Ferry has already employed over 250 people and is currently hiring for 75+ new positions, including captains, deckhands, customer service agents, ticketing, operations and more. New Yorkers of all backgrounds and skill levels are welcome to apply directly at ferry.nyc.
By Sam Stein