Commuter Ferry A Big Hit With Early-Morning Riders
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.
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."
"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.