2008-05-23 / Community

Commuter Ferry A Big Hit With Early-Morning Riders

Claim That Boat Ride Reduces Stress, Saves Big Bucks
By Howard Schwach

Cliff Russell sits in his seat on the ferry, watching Coney Island slide past on the starboard side. All photos by Howard Schwach Cliff Russell sits in his seat on the ferry, watching Coney Island slide past on the starboard side. All photos by Howard Schwach While the commuter ferry service from Riis Landing to Manhattan continues to draw its detractors, the people who ride the boat each day tell a story of personal redemption and added money in their pockets in these days of four-dollar a-gallon gasoline and long lines at tunnels and bridges.

Rockaway Park resident Cliff Russel is one of those who say the ferry service is "the best thing to hit Rockaway in years."

"I've been driving to Manhattan for more than five years, paying $36 a day in parking fees and $16 in tolls, not to mention the rising cost of gas," Russell told me during an early morning run from Riis Landing to Pier 11 in Manhattan on Monday morning. "I save easily $20 a day by taking the ferry, and I am also much happier at the end of the day." "I'm home an hour later, but there is no stress, and even my wife sees the difference. This ferry ride is a home run," he added.

The 5:45 a.m. run, the first of two morning runs each weekday, drew 25 riders on Monday morning, but a number of people told me that the return run in the evening is often packed.

More than 25 commuters rode the 5:45 boat from Riis Landing on Monday. More than 25 commuters rode the 5:45 boat from Riis Landing on Monday. Thomas Conaghan, Chris Wallace and Rich Conti, friends, were sitting together at one of the tables that dot the indoor seating area.

All three have been commuting to Manhattan for a long time, Conaghan and Conti using their automobiles for the commute and Wallace, who works in the Times Square area, by ATrain. All three are now hooked on the American Princess, the boat that takes them to and from Manhattan each day.

"I'll ride the ferry as long as the time is right," Conaghan said. "I save about $40 a day, even though I have to take a taxi to work after I leave the boat."

He hopes the service will survive, noting that ridership is the key.

"Riding the ferry rather than driving does increase your quality of life," he said. "Word of mouth should get more people to ride and then perhaps they'll add more boats and a few more stops to the schedule."

All of the riders praised the views from the ferry as opposed to those from either the subway or the commuter bus. Here, a high-speed ferry headed for New Jersey passes the Statue of Liberty. All of the riders praised the views from the ferry as opposed to those from either the subway or the commuter bus. Here, a high-speed ferry headed for New Jersey passes the Statue of Liberty. Wallace says that he had about a 25-minute subway ride to get to his job in midtown.

"If you add up the time and then think about the convenience, it still makes sense [to use the ferry] rather than the subway."

Another rider, however, who works at Lexington Avenue at 55 Street, called us, on our request, when she got to her desk. She called just as the ferry was pulling back into its dock at Riis Landing, about 40 minutes after leaving the rider off in Manhattan.

That meant an hour and forty-minute commute, longer than her usual express bus ride from Rockaway Park.

Three commuters who have become regular riders are, from left, Thomas Conaghan, Chris Wallace and Ron Conti. Three commuters who have become regular riders are, from left, Thomas Conaghan, Chris Wallace and Ron Conti. Riders get off the ferry in Manhattan. Many still had further transportation to take on their way to their desks. Riders get off the ferry in Manhattan. Many still had further transportation to take on their way to their desks. The ferry docks at Pier 11 in Manhattan. The ferry dock is next door to the South Street Seaport complex. The ferry docks at Pier 11 in Manhattan. The ferry dock is next door to the South Street Seaport complex. Back in its dock at Riis Landing, the American Princess takes on riders for its 7:45 a.m. run to Manhattan. Back in its dock at Riis Landing, the American Princess takes on riders for its 7:45 a.m. run to Manhattan.

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