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NYC Ferry cruises into cold weather

“We expect very minimal impact. It takes a lot for us to have delays and service changes — like heavy storms, blizzard conditions.”

Now that winter seems to have New York City in its cold grip, you may be wondering how the weather is going to affect the NYC Ferry, which quickly became a popular alternative to the issue-plagued subway since its May launch. 

“Weather and precipitation are a big driver of whether people decide to take the ferry or not,” said Paul Lambson, head of rider success for NYC Ferry. “We’ve seen a little drop off.”

To that end, the ferry schedule was altered slightly in early November, but service for peak-hour commutes remained.

But when the snow and long stretches of frigid temperatures do come for good, “we expect very minimal impact,” added Jonathan Figueroa, director of operations, facilities and support services. “It takes a lot for us to have delays and service changes — like heavy storms, blizzard conditions.”


But just as the ferries offered cool drinks and air conditioning during the hot summer months, passengers can expect amenities fitting to this time of year.

“NYC Ferry is a great way to get around the city 365 days a year,” said Stephanie Baez of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “From hot chocolate and coffee on board to windscreens and heaters on our landings, we’re making sure that all of our riders will have a safe and comfortable commute through the winter months.”

Some of the major connecting or transfer landings, such as Pier 11/Wall Street and East 34th Street, have covered waiting areas.

NYC Ferry looks back, forward

With 2.8 million rides since its launch on May 1, the NYC Ferry was an obvious success, but it wasn’t without hiccups.

There were complaints about delays and overcrowding, which saw officials chartering additional boats to meet demand. Some vessels were taken out of service recently for repairs. In late November, a ferry ran aground just off Wall Street with 114 riders, six crewmembers and a dog on board. No injuries were reported, but passengers were stranded for about 45 minutes, the New York Daily News reported

Both Lambson and Figueroa cited the unexpected demand for some of those issues.

“There were twice as many people as all our studies had said, our forecasts had said,” Lambson added. “We were adding boats without understanding what impact that would have on the live schedule. Now we know how this works a little better, and we’ll make some little adjustments.”

NYC Ferry sends out 300 rider surveys every day, with a response rate of 25 to 30 percent, which Lambson called “super high.”

“The quality survey that comes back ends up leading a lot of development for us,” he said.

That will include an update to the app, which was “our best guess that we could do out of the gate,” Lambson explained. “Now we have this super-engaged audience, and we can make the app usable to them. That kind of focus is super-important.”

Looking even further ahead, the NYC Ferry will add larger engines to three of its ships next summer to increase capacity from 150 passengers to 350. New routes to the Lower East Side and Soundview in the Bronx are also on track for a summer launch.

Additionally, principal construction on the NYC Ferry homeport at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is completed, and operations at the 56,000-square-foot facility is slated to commence in early 2018, the EDC said this week. The homeport will house most of the fleet and will be a stop on the East River route.  

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