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In Just a Year and a Half, Ridership has Already Surpassed Estimates for Entire Three Years of Pilot Service
City Seeks Long-Term Operator to Maintain and Improve Current Service While Reducing Need for Public Subsidy
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky today announced the City is seeking an operator for the long-term extension of the highly successful East River Ferry service. Since its launch in June 2011, the East River Ferry has carried more than 1.6 million passengers, already surpassing the initial projections of approximately 1.3 million passengers for the entirety of the three-year pilot program. The initial three-year pilot service operated by BillyBey Ferry Company is contracted through June 2014. The Request for Proposals, which will formally be released today, seeks an operator who can continue and maintain the current level of service for at least five years after the pilot period has ended. Respondents to the RFP will be evaluated on the extent to which they can improve the existing service while significantly reducing or eliminating the need for public operating assistance. In addition, respondents have the opportunity to propose expansion of service, such as increased operating hours and new landing locations. To obtain a copy of the RFP, please visit: www.nycedc.com/rfp. Responses are due March 1, 2013.
“Ferry service along the East River continues to be incredibly popular, both for commuters and weekend travelers,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We now have the opportunity to build upon this success and sustain this essential part of our transportation vision well into the future. Expanding transportation options along the waterfront will better serve communities and spur new housing and economic development.”
“After hurricane Sandy hit New York City, the East River Ferry was one of the first forms of mass transportation back up-and-running,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This ferry has not only proved to be a reliable and efficient form of transportation in a time of crisis, but New Yorkers also really love taking it the rest of the year. This new RFP exemplifies the City’s commitment to the east river ferry for the long term, and I look forward to working with the administration and EDC to ensure the selected respondent continues the ferry we’ve grown to love.”
East River ferry service continues to grow in popularity, with summer ridership increasing by nearly 40 percent from the first year of operations to the second. This growth occurred across all sectors of ferry riders, including weekday and weekend riders, and across all landing sites. Overall, average monthly ridership of the East River Ferry is in excess of 90,000 passenger trips. The successful pilot service was launched as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy to promote sustainable economic development along the waterfront and enhance mobility around the harbor, and has already become integrated into the city’s transportation network.
“Today we are one step closer to transforming the incredibly popular East River Ferry service into a permanent transportation option for waterfront neighborhoods across New York City,” said Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel. “Not only will the continuation of the ferry service reconnect residents to waterborne transportation, the neighborhoods served by the ferry will continue to grow and attract new investments thanks to this service.”
"The East River Ferry has quickly become an integral piece of the City’s transportation network, far surpassing ridership projections for its initial three-year pilot service. This was especially true in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinky. “Through this RFP, we have the opportunity to secure service over the long-term, reinforcing the ferry's role as a catalyst for economic development in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.”
“Commuters, New York residents and tourists alike have all benefited from the additional transportation options afforded by the East River Ferry,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez. “I’m pleased to see this affordable form of transportation continue to grow and thrive.”
“We know now more than ever that New Yorkers need better and more options when it comes to getting around the world’s greatest city, and that ferry service is an important part of our mass transit system,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “This announcement is welcome news indeed, especially for travelers along the bustling East River corridor where ferry ridership has exceeded every expectation, and I commend Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn for helping ensure that ferry commuters have the wind at their backs for years to come.”
“In just a year and a half, the wildly popular East River Ferry has become an indispensable option for commuting Brooklynites and sightseers, proving the viability of ferry service as a way for New Yorkers to get to and from work, and as an attraction bringing economic development and tourism to our bustling waterfront,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “That’s why I’m one-hundred percent ‘on-board’ in supporting efforts by Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and EDC President Seth Pinsky to extend East River Ferry service, which has quickly become the ‘flagship’ for innovative transportation options in New York City. Not only is the Ferry an efficient and enjoyable way to travel, but no matter which way you’re going, one side of the boat always has the best view in New York City: our beautiful Brooklyn waterfront.”
“I applaud the Mayor, Speaker and EDC for seeking a long term partner to operate the East River Ferry, which has experienced remarkable success in serving neighborhoods from Long Island City in Queens to Red Hook, Brooklyn and beyond,” said Manhattan Borough President Stringer. “New York City should encourage the growth of waterborne transportation, because in recent decades it has carried only 1% of regional ridership. The East River Ferry’s popularity shows the pent-up demand for such service, and it deserves our full support.”
“Ferry service is the transportation wave of the future,” Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “The service on the East River continues to grow dramatically as it helps to improve air quality, relieve congestion and provide a dependable and efficient means of transportation. It is a shining example of the City’s WAVES strategy for our shoreline and waterfront and needs to be continued.”
“By enhancing the East River Ferry service our City is only building upon an increasingly popular mode of alternative transportation New Yorkers have come to embrace – and love,” said New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer who represents a large portion of the East River waterfront in Western Queens. “A long-term extension of this service will help bring more residents to ride the river in the years to come. I commend the Administration’s efforts on helping push to develop this service as we rethink new ways to improve New York City’s transportation network’s which were direly affected in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.”
“East River Ferry Service has been an indisputable success,” said Council Member Daniel Garodnick. “New Yorkers are eager for creative transportation solutions, and this one deserves to be extended.”
“This RFP is proof that our waterways can be an important part of our transportation network,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Transportation Committee. “I hope we are able to make the East River Ferry a permanent commuting option for people who live on the waterfront, and I will continue to advocate for the expansion of routes into the Bronx. This RFP is an excellent step, but until we have true five borough ferry service, the network will be incomplete.”
“This RFP signifies the end of the pilot program and the start of a permanent East River Ferry,” said Council Member Michael Nelson, Chair of the Committee on Waterfronts. “New Yorkers have spoken and the consensus is that this ferry service is so popular that it must be continued. I look forward to working with EDC to ensure the operator selected continues the success of this vital form of inter-borough transportation.”
“The popularity of the East River Ferry service is proven and I am happy that the City will extend this important transportation option for another 5 years,” Council member Margaret Chin said. "Making full use of our waterways is the fastest way to ensure that New York remains the greatest and most vibrant city on earth. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Seth Pinsky for their vision of an ever-evolving New York City, and Speaker Christine Quinn for her support of this project."
“We’re working hard to increase travel choices for New Yorkers and it’s no surprise that ferries have become the city’s hottest new option for getting around town,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “The success of the East River Ferry demonstrates the effectiveness of new transportation options.”
“We need the East River Ferry,” said Roland Lewis, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. “If the record breaking crowds enjoying the East River Ferry service over the last two years weren't vivid enough testimony to the viability of frequent, affordable waterborne transit, the quick rebound of the service after Sandy to provide transit tens of thousands after the flooding of our subways forcefully brought home the lesson. We island people enthusiastically use ferry service in normal times but time and again desperately need it during emergencies.”
“East River ferry service offers a crucial link to the burgeoning Brooklyn and Queens waterfront area,” said Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association. “As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated, having multiple service options is vital to keeping our transportation network running.”
In conjunction with the release of the RFP, NYCEDC has also released the results of its summer 2012 Customer Survey to help gauge customer satisfaction and inform both near and long term service improvements. Some highlights of the survey include that more than 90% of onboard commuters have recommended the ferry to others, and the large majority, nearly 85%, of onboard commuters walk to the ferry. Commuters also expressed the top reasons they use the East River Ferry, pointing to the ease, efficiency, and speed of the service. NYCEDC also announced that in 2013 it will update the Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study to reflect actual ridership demand and lessons learned during the pilot period, as well as projected new demand for ferry service. Ferry service was launched on June 13, 2011, as part of a three-year pilot program to provide year-round, daily ferry service between East 34th Street and Pier 11 in Manhattan, Long Island City in Queens, Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, and Dumbo in Brooklyn, and seasonal weekend service to Governors Island. Fares for passengers are $4 for a one-way ticket, $12 for an unlimited all-day pass, and $140 for an unlimited monthly pass. Ferries accommodate bikes on board for an additional dollar. Tickets can be purchased at machines, onboard, from staffed ticket agents at certain landings, or via a free mobile device app.
On weekdays, the 149-passenger vessels operate from approximately 6:45 AM until 8:45 PM in both directions. During morning and evening peak hours, three boats service each landing every twenty minutes. During weekday off-peak hours, two boats run on a thirty-minute schedule or hourly schedule, depending on season. On weekends during the summer, three 399-passenger vessels operate every forty-five minutes from approximately 9:35 AM until 9:30 PM. Governors Island is served on the weekend route during the Island’s operating hours.
Ferry service played a pivotal role in getting the City back to work after Hurricane Sandy, quickly restoring transportation options for neighborhoods that were hardest hit. For both the Rockaways and the South Shore of Staten Island, temporary ferry service was established to reconnect the neighborhoods to the City’s transportation network. The East River Ferry was operating two days after the hurricane, providing critical relief to areas of Brooklyn and Queens without subway service.
The East River Ferry initiative is part of the Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy (WAVES), a citywide strategy launched by Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn, which lays out a sustainable blueprint for the City’s more than 500 miles of shoreline. WAVES has two core components: Vision 2020: The New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, released a year ago, which established long-term goals for the next decade and beyond, and the New York City Waterfront Action Agenda, which set forth priority initiatives to be implemented by the end of 2013, many of which are being realized. Together, the initiatives provide a blueprint for the City’s waterfront and waterways, and focus on the following categories: open space and recreation, the working waterfront, housing and economic development, natural habitats, climate change adaptation and waterborne transportation.
New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City's primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC's mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City's competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City's many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.