Tag: Rockaway Ferry

Ferry draws 11,000 first-week riders, about 1/3 of capacity

First ferry leaves Rockaway terminal for run back to city on May 1.  Total ridership for ferry during first week was 11,000, about 1/3 of capacity.

The Beach 108 Street terminal as seen from Jamaica Bay.

While there was a large crowd on the first 5:30 a.m. ferry, the number of riders has reportedly dropped since the first run on May 1.

The Rockaway commuter ferry service is a start-up and nobody really knows what the ridership will look like going forward, including the Rockaway “experts” who predicted that the ferry would be overcrowded from its first week and the city’s experts at the Economic Development Corporation, who predict that eventually the city’s ferry service will eventually carry 4.6 million riders annually.

How many riders is enough? That’s a question that nobody is ready to answer.

It’s clear that some runs from Rockaway to Manhattan are grossly underused. On the first day, the 5:30 a.m. run, the first ever for the service, was mobbed, but the numbers included dozens of media types, politicians and city officials. The next day, the run reportedly included a dozen or so riders.

In all, according to DEC numbers, the ferry service from Rockaway carried 11,000 riders in its first week of operation.

What does that mean? There are 149 seats on the boat, a number that many locals decried as being too small, predicting that boats would quickly become overwhelmed by riders. Except for one of two runs during that week, that turned out not to be the case.

There are 32 runs daily back and forth from Rockaway to Pier 11 in Manhattan. That means the maximum capacity for the boats daily is 4,768 riders, or a maximum of 33,376 riders each week. The 11,000 number for the first week is about 1/3 of the boat’s capacity.

According to AM New York, the numbers were hailed by the mayor, who committed $325 million to launch the service and another $30 million annually for operations, but some experts say it’s too soon to call the endeavor a success. Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University, told the digital publication that only time will tell.

“A ferry system for some areas of the city is going to be an acquired taste,” he said. “We have to give the service a full summer and full winter to see how the Rockaway population decides to use it.”

One Rockaway resident on the inaugural run was more succinct.

“You got the ferry back, now you have to either use it or lose it,” Joe Hartigan told reporters on that first bumpy run through the harbor.

While the ferry contract runs for five years, it is widely expected that changes and deletions to service would be made along the way. For example, locals fought for the 5:30 a.m. run (losing a run later in the day in the process) to accommodate construction workers who begin work early. It is widely expected that the early run will disappear sooner rather than later is ridership does not improve.

The mayor was upbeat.

“Thousands of New Yorkers are starting and ending their day riding NYC Ferry—and this is just the beginning,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We’re bringing people back to the water. With two more routes set to launch this summer, these numbers are only going to grow from here on out.”

A one-way ticket costs $2.75, but service is not incorporated with the MTA, a state-run agency. This means riders won’t be able to transfer freely to subways or city buses. Critics of the service have argued that this will limit ridership.

Rising costs led to the demise of an older, now-defunct Rockaway ferry service that the city supported after Superstorm Sandy badly damaged A train tracks in the area. Despite vocal support from Rockaway residents, that iteration of ferry service only served about 3,000 riders per week and was discontinued in 2013, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

De Blasio and James Patchett, the commissioner of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the agency overseeing ferry operations, have marketed NYC Ferry as an alternative to driving or taking the subway.

 Moss countered to AM New York that the ferries, each with a 150-person capacity, would at best complement—not supplement—the subway system. For instance, the Rockaway route served 11,000 riders in a week while the 11 A train subway stations in the area combined serve 16,400 riders in one day, according to MTA statistics.

“Ferries are not going to be competitive,” Moss said. “The subway system has more than 400 stations with meaningful transit connections. This is much more of a specialized mode but it’s a delightful innovation. I think over time it’s going to develop a serious following.”

Locals are looking to the summer, when ridership is expected to balloon as visitors come to the beach, to improve the ridership to the point where the service is out of danger.

It is clear, however, just an informal check, shows that locals continue to use both the subway and the more-expensive express bus service to Manhattan.

Locals plan ferry shuttle routes

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Locals work on Rockaway maps to assist in design of ferry service shuttle bus routes and to designate stops for the buses.

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EDC official Justine Johnson outlines the ferry service, which will begin in 2017. New information on the service was provided on Thursday night at the Beach Channel Educational Campus to 25 locals who attended the meeting.

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The turnout was sparse at the important meeting and most of the local participants were ferry advocates.

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City Councilman Eric Ulrich, with bow tie, works with locals and EDC workers to come up with a plan for the west end shuttle bus.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation held a ferry planning meeting on Thursday night at the Beach Channel Educational Campus and few but the usual suspects seemed to care.

About 30 locals attended the meeting, hosted by City Councilmen Eric Ulrich and Donovan Richards, but many of them were media, politicians (or their surrogates) and city workers. The remaining participants were those who have been strong advocates of a commuter ferry for Rockaway and have been at many ferry-related meetings in the past. The only local missing piece was Joe Hartigan, often called “Mr. Ferry,” who has seemed to drop out of the picture since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the 2017 return of a Rockaway commuter ferry service and his friends at SeaStreak dropped out of the hunt.

The first part of the meeting was a restatement of the coming service, information that virtually everybody in the room was already aware of.

There were some new tidbits of information in the presentation, however.

Originally, there were four terminal sites under consideration: Beach 116 Street at Tribute Park; Beach 108 Street, Beach 73 Street and Riis Landing.

The Beach 116 Street site was considered too small for the planned terminal facilities. The Beach 73 Street site was discarded because the city would have had to start from scratch to build a boat that could accommodated 150 riders and yet be small enough to fit under the subway bridge adjacent to the Cross Bay Bridge. The Riis landing site was considered to be too far from the east end of the peninsula to draw riders from that area.

In addition, the fact that the National Grid parking lot across from the Beach 108 Street site made it more attractive. At the meeting, Ulrich announced that a deal may be near on using the site for ferry parking, as it was during the emergency period more than a year ago.

In addition, city officials said that no operator had yet been chosen, but that an announcement on which of the two bidding groups will get the contract will happen “very soon.” The city had said previously that the decision would be made in January.

While there will be free transfers from the ferry to other ferry services when the Rockaway service arrives at Pier 11 in Wall Street, there will be no transfers to Manhattan bus or subway service, as least at the beginning, although DEC officials say they are working on making such transfers possible.

And, while many local skeptics believe that the service will begin in 2017 and end shortly thereafter if ridership numbers are low, officials said that there is a five-year commitment to the program and that while fares might rise, the service will continue at least for the five years of the initial contract. In addition, officials are looking to reduced fares for school children, seniors and the handicapped.

City Councilman Ulrich, who came late to the meeting, had the best line of the evening.

“I came here after the meeting started, but if there were a ferry service, I would have been here on time,” Ulrich said to laughs and clapping. He pointed out that he left a meeting at City Hall at 4:55 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. meeting, but that it took him more than two hours to get to Rockaway because of traffic.

“We need the ferry,” he said, “We want it back and we need it to stay.”

Other local politicians spoke at the meeting as well.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder said that the shuttles for the ferry should be extended to Long Beach and Howard Beach.

“We need to get as many riders as possible to the terminal,” he said. “The 20-minute rule for the shuttles is silly, and should be extended. If it doesn’t work, then stop it. If it does, then keep it.”

Congressman Gregory Meeks said that he “will continue to prod the mayor to get the ferry system going sooner than later,”

After a question and answer session, locals broke up into an east end and a west end group for planning purposes.

The groups worked with EDC officials to come up with a viable plan for the shuttle buses, using maps to pinpoint individual stops and possible routes. While officials said that routes will be “tweaked” in negotiations with the chosen provider, it was apparent that the agency is not really willing to move beyond their ruling that shuttle routes cannot take more than 25 minutes to move from the beginning of the route to the Beach 108 Street terminal.

“People will still use the ferry if it takes a little longer than the subway because it is a more comfortable ride,” one agency worker said. “But, not much longer.”

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Ferry meeting set Jan. 21

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The city’s EDC and several local politicians will host a community planning meeting concerning the coming ferry service and its shuttle bus component at the Beach Channel Educational Campus on January 21.

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The last commuter ferry left Rockaway last year. The new service is slated for the summer of 2017.

A group of local politicians is hosting an “Interactive Community Planning Meeting to address the community about the Citywide Ferry Service and Rockaway Shuttle Bus Service now planned for the summer of 2017.

The meeting will be held on the second floor cafeteria of the Beach Channel Educational Campus at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. The school is located at 100-00 Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Park.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation, the agency that is facilitating the commuter ferry service said, “Join us for the planning meeting for the Rockaway Shuttle Bus, for the Beach 108 Street Ferry Landing. It is our goal to share information about the launch of the 2016 Rockaway route and gain feedback on the proposed shuttle service.

The commuter ferry service will charge the same as a subway ride and will run seven days a week on a one hour headway, perhaps more often during rush hours.

The ferry terminal at Beach 108 Street and Beach Channel Drive will be accessible to more Rockaway residents through two shuttle buses that will bring passengers to the new and improved terminal.

The shuttle running from the west end will begin at Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Riis Park and will make round trips lasting 35-40 minutes, with 14 stops, to the terminal.

The shuttle running from the east end will begin at Beach 67 Street and Bayfield Avenue in Arverne, and will take 45 minutes with 17 stops to the ferry terminal. Bayswater and Far Rockaway residents will have to fend for themselves or travel to Bayfield Avenue to get the shuttle.  Breezy Point residents have access to the cooperative’s Blue Bus, which makes regular runs to Gateway National Park at Fort Tilden Riis Park.

The meeting is being hosted by City Councilmen Eric Ulrich and Donovan Richards. A number of other local politicians, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Assembly members Phil Goldfeder and Michelle Titus, State Senators Joe Addabbo and James Sanders, Jr., and Congressman Gregory Meeks have been invited to attend.

 

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