Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and BillyBey Ferry Company today announced that the East River Ferry has served one million passengers in just over a year, more than double the initial projection of 409,000 annual riders. The successful first year of pilot service, launched as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy to promote sustainable economic development along the waterfront and enhance mobility around the harbor, has already become an important part of city’s transportation network.
The Mayor and Speaker also announced that in order to improve ferry service further, they will launch a survey to be administered online, on board the ferry, and via phone in the coming weeks. The Mayor and the Speaker rode the ferry from North Williamsburg to Pier 11 this morning.
“Using our waterways as transportation corridors makes for a greener and more livable City, and knits together rapidly growing neighborhoods in new ways” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Ferry service is only going to get better for the next million passengers, whether they are headed to work or going to visit our parks or cultural institutions.”
“In just a little more than a year since its launch, the East River Ferry has consistently exceeded paid ridership predictions and provided residents and tourists alike with a fun, scenic alternative to getting around some of New York City’s most vibrant neighborhoods,” said Speaker Quinn. “I look forward to this ferry’s continued success and to expanding ferry service across the five boroughs. I thank Mayor Bloomberg, my Council colleagues, Seth Pinsky, and the BillyBey Ferry Company for their dedication to ensuring this pilot program succeeds.”
“Surpassing the one-million milestone is a testament to how popular our service has been with commuters, tourists and leisure travelers in the first year,” said Paul Goodman, CEO of BillyBey Ferry Company. “The new satisfaction survey will enable us to gauge our customers’ needs so we can continue to provide the next million riders with the outstanding service they have come to expect.”
The upcoming East River Ferry Survey will delve deep into the experience of existing riders. The survey, which will include on-board, online and targeted phone survey components, will include a random sample of commuter and recreational ferry riders, and attempt to capture residents that live within walking distance of ferry landings in Queens and Brooklyn. Through the survey, riders will be able to suggest improvements to the service and the City will in turn be able to gauge customer satisfaction with the East River Ferry and get a better understanding of passenger origin and final destination. As many ferry systems have been attempted in New York City in the past and have failed, it is important to understand why those in close proximity are not taking advantage of the service and what is necessary to motivate additional ridership.
To accommodate overwhelming demand last summer, larger vessels now operate on the weekends. The recently opened new landing at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1 both accommodates these larger vessels, and increases capacity with the introduction of two slips and wider gangways allows for easier embarkation and disembarkation, reducing service delays and increasing reliability. The popular concession service serving locally-produced options is now more robust and present on every ride across the system.
“The East River Ferry service is rapidly becoming one of the most popular ways for New Yorkers to both commute and enjoy the natural treasure that is our waterfront,” said Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel. “After just one year of service, we have already begun to see real estate firms and businesses in Brooklyn and Queens marketing their proximity to the Ferry, which will attract jobs and investment to rapidly-growing neighborhoods like Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg and DUMBO.”
“In just over one year of pilot service, the East River Ferry has continued to exceed our expectations, in both ridership and economic impact,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “In response to this enormous success, we have already upgraded many aspects of the service and intend to continue to look for additional ways to do so. For this reason, we believe the future of ferry service along the East River to continue to be bright.”
“While I’m not surprised that the East River Ferry has been successful, reaching the one-million riders mark in just over a year is an amazing accomplishment,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “The East River ferry service has provided a much-needed transportation link between communities along the Brooklyn waterfront. I look forward to seeing the service continue to grow as more New Yorkers experience the benefits of commuting by ferry.”
“Every milestone in the East River Ferry Pilot brings hope that someday we will bring ferry service to all five boroughs,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Transportation Committee. “For too long, our waterways have been underused as transportation corridors, but this milestone clearly shows the interest is there and that this service is ripe for expansion.”
“We predicted that frequent ferry service between Manhattan and our growing waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens would bring convenience and pleasure to residents and help make the water part of the lives of New Yorkers as envisioned in our Comprehensive Waterfront Plan,” City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden said.
“The great success of the East River Ferry service demonstrates one million good reasons how New Yorkers have and will embrace affordable, frequent and comfortable ferry service,” said Roland Lewis of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. “Let's keep them going.”
“The ferry has become a major recruiting tool for Dumbo’s companies,” said Alexandra Sica, Executive Director of the Dumbo Business Improvement District. “What better offer is there for the creative class than to live in Williamsburg and take the East River to work every day. It’s easy and enjoyable. The ferry has also dramatically increased tourism traffic to our businesses. It’s the key to enjoying the borough’s waterfront and exploring the best Brooklyn has to offer.”
On weekdays, the 149-passenger vessels operate from 6:45 AM until 8:45 PM. in both directions. During morning and evening peak hours, three boats service each landing every twenty minutes. During weekday off-peak hours, two boats run on a thirty-minute schedule. On Saturdays and Sundays, three 399-passenger vessels operate every forty-five minutes from 9:35 AM until 9:30 PM. Governors Island is served on the weekend route during the Island’s operating hours.
Ferry service was launched on June 13, 2011, as part of a 3-year pilot program to provide year-round ferry service between East 34th Street and Pier 11 in Manhattan, Long Island City in Queens, Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, and Dumbo in Brooklyn, and seasonal weekend service to Governor’s Island. Fares for passengers are $4 for a one-way ticket, $12 for an unlimited all-day pass, and $140 for an unlimited monthly pass.. Ferries accommodate bikes on board for an additional dollar. Ticketing machines are available at all commuter locations along with staffed ticket agents at some stops, and can also be purchased on a mobile device.
This initiative is part of the Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy (WAVES), a citywide strategy launched by Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn, which lays out a sustainable blueprint for the City’s more than 500 miles of shoreline. WAVES has two core components: Vision 2020: The New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, released a year ago, which established long-term goals for the next decade and beyond, and the New York City Waterfront Action Agenda, which set forth priority initiatives to be implemented by the end of 2013, many of which are being realized. Together, the initiatives provide a blueprint for the City’s waterfront and waterways, and focus on the following categories: open space and recreation, the working waterfront, housing and economic development, natural habitats, climate change adaptation and waterborne transportation.