Use of the East River ferry service has surpassed expectations, according to city officials and those who operate the service.
“Every single one of the stops has had far greater traffic than expected,” said Ronald Lewis, the president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which represents over 500 organizations with ties to New York’s waterways.
Since June, the service, which makes one stop in Queens — Hunters Point South in Long Island City — has ferried nearly 450,000 riders, according to data from New York’s Economic Development Corp. That exceeds the annual projected ridership by 40,000, with months remaining before the service’s one-year anniversary.
While New York has long had ferries on the East River, the new service is different in a key respect: the city is giving the ferry company that operates it a $3.1 million subsidy every year for the next three years, which has allowed the operator to charge less while running with greater frequency.
A one-way ticket from any one of the service’s nine stops to another costs $4, less than what was charged by similar ferries in the past.
Recent traffic has been so encouraging that BillyBey Ferry Company, which operates the ferries, is in talks with the city to use bigger crafts on weekends, according to Paul Goodman, the company’s chief executive.
“Where we run into capacity issues is on the weekend,” Goodman explained. He hopes commuter traffic will keep numbers up through the winter.
While overall traffic is up, the ferry’s Queens stop accounts for only seven percent of total ridership, Goodman said. He believes this is because of the ferry landing location.
“It’s sort of challenging to get there,” he said of the Hunters Point South dock. “People who ride out of Long Island City are the people who drive to the parking lot [nearby].”
Talks are in the works to temporarily relocate the landing to the more accessible Gantry Plaza State Park, also in Long Island City. And Lewis even suggested there might be a stop in Astoria one day.
“We’re currently evaluating the plausibility of that,” said Jen Friedberg, an EDC representative, of moving the Hunters Point South stop. “We’re taking it one day at a time.”