2008-02-22 / Editorial/Opinion

Perhaps Not So Much Of A Ferry Tale

The move to place commuter ferry service all over the city is growing, perhaps on the impetus of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing program, an unpopular program that depends on transportation alternatives for outer-borough commuters. The latest politician to get on board, so to speak, is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who wants badly to be mayor and is looking for an issue to make her own. It seems that she has chosen transportation, and particularly commuter transportation, as that issue. In May of last year, Mayor Bloomberg stood on the boardwalk at Beach 126 Street and announced that he was funding a subsidized commuter ferry for Rockaway. At the time, he said that the ferry problem was being "studied," but that he expected service to begin by 2011. That service would run from Riis Park to lower Manhattan. Quinn and others envision a program with more scope. It would tie the five boroughs together with a spider web of ferry service. The service that touches Rockaway, for example, would also access John F. Kennedy Airport, Coney Island and perhaps other venues. That a ferry terminal already exists at Riis Landing (thanks largely to Congressman Anthony Weiner, who also wants to be mayor), is both a plus and a minus for Rockaway commuters. On the plus side, a commuter service could be up and running very quickly without much infrastructure cost. On the minus side, Riis Landing is far from most of the remainder of the peninsula. Commuters from Far Rockaway and Nassau County would still have to drive 20 to 25 minutes to get to the ferry terminal and then, perhaps, pay for parking. Adding 25 minutes to a 50-minute trip makes the express bus alternative look more attractive than the ferry. In addition, commuters would still have to get from lower Manhattan to their place of work in midtown, another ride, another charge. What we need is perhaps three Rockaway terminals - one in the bay at the eastern end of the peninsula, perhaps in Bayswater or Inwood; another at Beach 108 Street and a third at Riis Landing. That would do the job and make the ferry service more attractive. In any case, The Wave has been calling commuter ferry service for Rockaway a "ferry tale" for years. Perhaps it is getting closer to reality.

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