2008-06-06 / Editorial/Opinion

It's My Turn

A Ferry Nice Ride
By Ellen McCarthy

The Rockaway Ferry has arrived! I took the ferry to work during its inaugural week and am happy to report that it's a relaxing, safe, cost-effective way to commute from the Rockaways to Manhattan. That seems to be the consensus of my fellow riders, whose numbers are increasing daily as word gets out about what a nice way this is to travel.

"This ferry has changed my life!" commented Ally, who used to drive to her job in Lower Manhattan every day. She no longer has to deal with traffic jams on the Belt Parkway and Gowanus Expressway, or pay for tolls on the Marine Parkway Bridge and Battery Tunnel and for parking in a lot by her office. She gets to work earlier and in a pleasant state of mind. Her co-workers have noticed, and asked what's gotten into her. Ally credits the Rockaway Ferry.

There's a lot to credit. From the free easy access parking at Riis Landing, to the courtesy and professionalism of the Ferry crew, to the quality of the trip itself, riders are finding many attributes of the Rockaway Ferry service worthy of praise. On the first Monday morning of service, we were welcomed enthusiastically by crewmembers, who offered us free coffee and bagels. That certainly took the edge off the gloomy weather! The crew also proved expert in handling the choppy sea we were faced with that first day. Yes, the ride was a little rough, but we were all back the next morning, and more people joined us as the week progressed. Most of us purchased the discounted 40-trip ticket, at a cost of $5.40 per one-way ride (compared to the normal cost of $6 per one-way trip).

Each day, we are presented with spectacular views of local landmarks that we might not ordinarily get to see. What a thrill it is to see the Coney Island Parachute Jump, the Brooklyn Cyclones Stadium, the Seagate Lighthouse, and Governor's Island up close, or to look from underneath at the majesty of the Verrazano Bridge as it spans Brooklyn and Staten Island! Or even to see your own home as you approach by sea after a long day at work.

For those of us who used to commute by driving off the peninsula, either directly to Manhattan or to subway connections in Flatbush, Sheepshead Bay, or Broad Channel, the Rockaway Ferry actually costs less than our old commute. I used to drive to Flatbush and take the #2 or #5 train to Wall Street. When you add up the bridge tolls, the cost of gas, and the price of a subway token, I was paying about $11 per day. The Rockaway Ferry costs me $10.80 per day, and unlike a subway or bus commute, there is a definite and reliable schedule, no waiting time or delays. It's also a safer and much more relaxing way to get to and from work. You can read the newspaper or a novel, get some work done, bring a travel mug of coffee onboard and enjoy it, look out the window at some great scenery, or have a conversation with your fellow passengers. I even saw a woman knitting yesterday. By the end of the first week, a number of passengers had connected with each other, making new friends or renewing ties with their neighbors. Some of the passengers are already on a first name basis with the crew.

This week, I met a great group of people who already love the Rockaway Ferry and really want see it succeed. Some of us, like Roger, Dolores, Brendan, Ally, and I, work downtown. Jean, who has been "waiting for this ferry for 15 years, since I moved to Breezy Point," works in the Financial Center. She walks to work in the morning, but takes the free Downtown Connection shuttle bus to the Ferry at night. Others work farther away, like Loretta, who gets off the Ferry and walks to Chinatown. Ann, who teaches at a school on 34th Street, takes the #1 train and then takes the Ferry home. Barbara, from Long Beach, takes the Rockaway Ferry and then transfers to another boat to get to her job in New Jersey. Agroup of construction workers and nurses, all of whom used to drive to work, are now using the Ferry.

Who needs congestion pricing? Just keep the Rockaway Ferry running, and there will be less cars going into Manhattan.

Why don't you join us? It really is a ferry nice ride!

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