After record summer, NYC Ferry sails into the future
With a new homeport, more routes and larger vessels on the horizon, the Hornblower-operated service’s first season went swimmingly.
Summer 2017 was a time in which many New Yorkers faced countless issues getting around the city, from frequent subway delays to Penn Station’s “summer of hell” repairs that, thankfully for some, seemed to be more a “summer of heck.” But one communting alternative took the city by storm, or in this case, water.
“It definitely exceeded expectations,” Cameron Clark, senior vice president and general manager of NYC Ferry by Hornblower, said Monday as he sat near the Wall Street/Pier 11 landing. “Being able to scale and build on something was the effective plan, and we’re going to continue to build on that demand.”
The service also exceeded the expectation of Natalie, a passenger who arrived at Pier 11 from Bay Ridge on the South Brooklyn route. “I was skeptical, of course, but my commute is much more pleasant now,” she said. “It’s great to be out in the open air.”
She isn’t alone. The NYC Ferry service has a 93 percent approval rating, according to a New York City Economic Development Corporation survey of more than 1,300 riders. Released Friday, the report also found that 87 percent of passengers are New Yorkers who use the ferry to commute.
The survey also indicated that riders wanted more enhancements and information, Clark said, which led to real-time indicators at every landing and on-pier kiosks with area maps and information about nearby subways and other modes of transportation such as Citi Bike stations, restaurants and other neighborhood attractions.
Additional enhancements were also made to the NYC Ferry’s mobile app — through which half of riders buy tickets that cost the same as a MetroCard for subways and buses — including information on the exact location of a vessel at any given moment.
Those who enjoy the fresh air the NYC Ferry provides during their commute will still have that option come the cooler months.
“First and foremost, riders can expect heated vessels, coffee and to continue to have pleasant crews,” Clark said. “The vessels are designed to operate 365 days a year, year-round, and just as they were comfortable during the summer months, we expect they’ll be comfortable during the winter months.”
Clark said crews will be deployed before storms to clear decks, docks and piers, and the ships feature gradient heaters to keep ice and snow off the bow.
While the East River and South Brooklyn routes will see some changes — and their weekend stops at Governors Island will end Oct. 29 — peak morning and evening service will stay the same, he added.
Because of its popularity, the NYC Ferry is in the process of adding larger engines to three of its 20 ships to increase capacity from 150 passengers to 250. Those vessels are slated to arrive next summer.
In addition to launching routes to the Lower East Side and Soundview in the Bronx next summer, the NYC Ferry’s homeport at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is currently under construction. The 56,000-square-foot facility will house up to 25 ships, supplies and parts and will be a stop on the LES route when it launches.
“The exact move-in date, we don’t know yet, but I’d say before we move into summer operations next year,” Clark said.
When asked what is the most popular NYC Ferry route, Clark likened it to picking a favorite child, but did say that while the Rockaway route “exceeded our expectations, I think the people are getting out to communities they didn’t realize was accessible to them and commuters are now reducing commute times — those are the things that are becoming exciting to people.”
In the NYCEDC’s survey of 1,345 passengers:
• 93 percent gave the NYC Ferry a satisfaction rating of 7 out of 10 or higher, while 66 percent gave it a 10.
• 87 percent of riders who provided valid addresses live in New York City
• 85 percent of riders during off-peak hours are New Yorkers
• 90 percent of peak-hour passengers live in the city
• 71 out of 100 is NYC Ferry’s Net Promoter Score, which measures a customer’s willingness to recommend products or services. A score of 50 or above is considered extremely positive. By comparison, Bose has an NPS of 78, while Apple’s is 63.