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NYC Ferry prepares to double fleet as expected ridership soars

Officials are now anticipating that 9 million annual riders will use the NYC Ferry service, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
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Photo: NYC Ferry

We’re gonna need a bigger boat — and at least a few more of them.

NYC Ferry is gaining popularity quickly. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that ferry ridership may reach 9 million annual passengers by 2023.

That’s twice the amount of passengers initially projected, according to the mayor’s office, and means that the city will invest in a bigger ferry fleet to meet all that demand.

“We all know the famous phrase, ‘If you build it they will come.’ Well they have come and they have come and they have come in numbers much greater than we ever could imagine,” de Blasio said while standing at the American Veterans Memorial Pier in Bay Ridge. “This has a lot to say about what we can do going forward to make this a better city.”

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The mayor added that this update “honestly surprises” officials. Previously, the city projected that ridership, once all six routes are operating, to be 4.6 million a year. Now, that projection is doubling, as officials anticipate 9 million riders annually in just a few years.

Two more routes, the final lines in the first phase of NYC Ferry service, are expected to begin operating late this summer. Those lines will service Soundview and the Lower East Side, joining the current routes of the East River, Rockaway, South Brooklyn and Astoria.

To handle the higher expected ridership, NYC Ferry will be more than doubling the capacity of service by acquiring more vessels. The exact number needed is not yet known, but will be a mix of both 150-person and 350-person vessels.

NYC Ferry will also update the physical infrastructure of the ferry landings at Pier 11 and the 34th Street hub, because the current configuration limits the number of vessels that can come in at once.

“And we’re going to need a second home port,” said New York City Economic Development Corp. President James Patchett. “We’re bringing in more vessels, we need more places to keep those vessels and we’re going to make sure that home port is right in New York City so we also add New York City jobs.”

The city is preparing to invest $300 million in capital over the next five years to implement those changes. NYC Ferry launched just one year ago, on May 1, 2017.