Miguel Mercado has noticed something different about the Staten Island Ferry since he began commuting to Grand Central Station where he’s a mail carrier.
“I have seen an uptick in ridership since I moved seven months ago,” he said.
A record number of people cruised between Lower Manhattan and Saint George this year aboard the Staten Island Ferry, thanks somewhat to a move to have ferries depart every 30 minutes.
More than 23 million people rode the ferries, which are free, between July 2015 and this past June, according to statistics from the mayor’s office. That figure represents a 5 percent increase from the previous year and nearly 800,000 more riders above a record set in 2012.
Staten Island Borough President James Oddo said it was easy to see why there were more riders this past year: more departures.
“It’s not the love boat—it’s a vital transportation link and ferry service just once an hour late at night and on weekend evenings is not acceptable,” he said in 2013 when proposing legislation to boost service.
“Our legislation required no more than half hour wait times between boats so that the schedule would stop acting as a de facto curfew on Staten Islanders,” he said.
Oddo added that the increased service came just in-time to help support new development taking place on Staten Island’s North Shore waterfront, including the recent opening of the Urby housing development on the Stapleton waterfront, as well as the continued construction of the NY Wheel, Empire Outlets, and Lighthouse Point.
The ferry, operated by the city since 1905, carries more than 22 million passengers annually and runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The city says the ferry is the most reliable form of mass transit, with an on-time performance of over 96 percent.
Kimberly Potts Poe, a recent visitor from the Dallas, Texas, area said it was her first time going to see Lady Liberty by way of the ferry.
“It was a great experience for us first timers,” she said.
Nancy Pagano, a Brooklyn native who now lives in Florida, said she was surprised to learn the ferry ride was free, calling it “great.”
“We met a couple from Australia,” she recalled, “and it was wonderful to see how they were enjoying the ride and the view of the Statue of Liberty.”
For 2017, Oddo is looking to expand the ferry’s service yet again.
“Our fight now turns towards securing an agreement from the city for the Staten Island Ferry to begin sailing to additional destinations, such as Midtown,” he said.
“I’m happy to report that the city’s Department of Transportation has agreed to study this proposal, a process that should begin in the winter.”