NYC to spend $300M on ferry to meet ridership demand

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Ridership on NYC Ferry is now predicted to hit 9 million by 2023, almost twice as many passengers as originally projected, so Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday the city will begin to invest in a bigger ferry fleet to meet the expected demand.

The Mayor’s Executive Budget includes $300 million in new money over the next five years, with $35 million in Fiscal Year 2019. The new 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 homeport at the Brooklyn Navy Yard;
  • Infrastructure improvements and upgrades to existing NYC Ferry barges and landings to accommodate larger crowds; and
  • Improvements to the two main ferry terminals, Pier 11/Wall Street and E 34th Street, which see the highest traffic on a daily basis.

“New Yorkers have spoken. We’re going to need bigger boats,” de Blasio said in Bay Ridge, where ferry service launched last year. “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 called for 4.6 million riders a year by the time all six routes were operational. However, NYC Ferry is already carrying 3.7 million passengers a year, with only four of the routes operating. Updated projections show demand could hit 9 million riders annually by 2023.

The final two routes of the first phase of ferry service -- Soundview and the Lower East Side -- are expected to begin operating by late summer. They join the four existing routes: East River, Rockaway, South Brooklyn and Astoria. The city’s Economic Development Corp. will study potential route expansions later this year.

“NYC Ferry is a great success story and the expansion being announced today – two new routes this year along with more and bigger boats – is more good news for New Yorkers looking to our beautiful waters to get themselves around,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

To meet an expected surge in demand this year, NYC Ferry will:

  • Deploy three new 350-passenger capacity boats by later this summer to service the busiest routes;
  • Deploy up to eight charter vessels this summer, each with capacity between 250-500 passengers;
  • Beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Governors Island will 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% on the Rockaway route; and
  • Increase staffing at ferry landings to assist riders with queuing and boarding.

“NYC Ferry’s overwhelming success in its first year of service indicates the need to make smart investments for the future now,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “This capital investment will support system improvements over the next five years, ultimately enhancing customer experience and strengthening the city’s waterfront infrastructure.”

The Executive Budget totals $89.06 billion for fiscal 2019 with the capital plan totaling $82 billion.

The city has $37.6 billion of general obligation debt as of March 31. Moody’s Investors Service rates the city’s general obligation bonds Aa2, while S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings rate them AA. All three assign stable outlooks.

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Budgets Infrastructure Bill de Blasio New York City Transit City of New York, NY New York