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NYC Spends $44M to Run Subsidized Ferry Service; Taxpayers Bear Brunt at $9 Per Ride

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Owning a boat is a common fantasy, but in reality, it tends to be simply that; a fantasy. They are costly, big and need to be constantly kept somewhere, and require constant and thorough maintenance and care. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the city’s ferry service that was rolled out under the current administration had its operating costs rise by 50 percent as the services started spreading, Crain’s reports.

Budget documents show that $44 million went towards running the boats, a decision facilitated by the Economic Development Corp. The subsidy increased by $14 million from the prior fiscal year, mostly because the routes offered doubled. When service first opened, very few routes were open. As the service was being rolled out, the rest of the ferry terminals were being constructed so all of the routes could be fully realized. The boats themselves added to rising costs because more of them are running on each route on average than in the previous year, according to the city. Ridership more than doubled during this period of time.

A fast ferry service with amenities onboard and views of the city for only $2.75 is not surprisingly a hit with most people, but with the real cost on average from the past two years for a single trip at around $9, a lot of money is going towards the ferries in order to keep fares cheap.

“Like any popular startup, initial costs will always be higher than they are in the long run,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “The incremental difference in operating costs is mainly attributed to increased service that was needed to meet ridership demand that surpassed our initial projections.”

The Jewish Voice has been reporting on the city’s growing ferry services. 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.

By: Kimberly Sammarino

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