Ciao, A train.
The first of the 20 new city-owned ferries to cruise local waters will be the Rockaway Ferry on May 1, connecting Wall Street to Rockaway, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
The launch of the city’s $85 million ferry program is just in time for sunshine season and the influx of summer traffic to Rockaway Beach.
“Spring and summer is a good time to be launching ferry service because more people are open to trying it. When the weather is nice, standing on the deck in the sunshine is a big attraction,” said Anthony Hogrebe, senior vice president at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The agency helped develop and implement the plan for the NYC Ferry program, which will be operated by Hornblower Cruises.
“It will be an economic driver for businesses in the area,” Hogrebe remarked about the Rockaway Ferry, which will be located at Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive. Rides will cost $2.75.
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But the primary concern, he made clear, is for commuters to have more access to the city.
The priorities for routes and launch dates were determined by studies about community need for more transportation options as well as the location’s readiness to have a ferry landing.
“We’re trying to solve for historic transit deserts, and make sure we put landings in walking distance of the most people who need them,” for instance near public housing, Hogrebe said.
Rockaway was an ideal place to start, not just because it will be great for beach business, but because it already had an emergency ferry landing used for 500 days after Superstorm Sandy disabled their A-train service.
“It was extremely popular, with an average daily ridership of 600 people. People in Rockaway are very excited about the new ferry,” he said.
Later this summer the South Brooklyn line, with stops in Bay Ridge, Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dumbo and Wall Street—will start on June 1. The Astoria route, which will make stops at East 34th Street, Long Island City, Roosevelt Island and Wall Street will launch in August.
For the other lines, Hogrebe said he expects ridership to steadily increase for the throughout the year as people get used to an entirely new form of travel.
The city expects that by 2019 the NYC Ferry’s total annual ridership will be 4.6 million.
Compared to the subways’ 300 million riders a year, the ferries will barely make a scratch on the overburdened transit system, CUNY civil engineering and urban systems professor Robert Paaswell told Metro.
“It will not alleviate the overcrowding, or solve the L-train issue,” Paaswell said. “Here’s why: if the access to new areas the ferry provides is as good as anticipated, real estate developers will smell the potential before the riders. It will create modernization around the edges of Brooklyn, and new people will flock to those areas, using the ferries.”
Paaswell said that to help the transit system, the effort has to be put into modernizing the subway and bus systems.
“You can’t just add new things and expect business to be easier. It just complicates it. You must first improve what we have.”