2009-05-22 / Community

Rockaway Ferry Tale Turns One

The Rockaway Ferry provides a hassle free commute to Manhattan twice per day.
The Rockaway Ferry has completed the first year of its three year pilot run, taking sail from Riis Landing twice a morning, providing residents a viable and quick alternative to get to lower Manhattan.

It was last May 12, when a small group of 50 wet and cold commuters braved the elements during a nasty storm, to be among the first to hop aboard the newest form of public transportation to Manhattan.

One year later the consensus seems to be the same as it was a few weeks after that May 12 date. The ferry service works for some commuters, but for others, not so well, depending mainly on how far one's office is from Pier 11 in lower Manhattan.

One rider, Ellen McCarthy Coyne, whom has been riding the ferry since day one, says it has changed her commute but admits there are ways to make it more favorable to people who don't wish to use it. "The schedule I think needs some work," Coyne said. "I would be nice, if some way there could be more boats and [more] runs."

There however, is no guarantee that those who run the line will add more boats in the future, as New York City still hasn't determined if the ferry should become a permanent, fully-subsidized means of public transportation.

Tom Fox, President and CEO of Harbor Enterprises, the company that operates New York Water Taxi, says the service can't survive unless it becomes subsidized like all other forms of public transportation. "We're hopeful of it becoming permanent," Fox said. "But not without subsidies. It's needed to keep the ferry at an affordable price."

Subsidies are important because at this point, ridership is contingent on the weather. During the winter months, Fox says, they only average 130-170 riders a day, as opposed to the summer months when ridership averages between 350 and 400 per day.

Coyne, whom can't imagine her commute without the ferry, has tried every other travel option known to exist, even admitting to driving all the way to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to get on a train that would bring her directly to work. "The price is worth it, the service is wonderful and it serves as a nice relaxing and safe ride," she said.

Fox is committed to keeping riders like Coyne satisfied."It is successful, the people are happy and we have not missed any runs," he said. "We will continue to listen to our customers and see what they want and try to provide the best service possible."

Fox added that he does not foresee any significant changes in the near future, such as scheduling or the number of boats changing. Therefore customers could continue riding the $6 ferry from Riis Landing at 5:45 a.m. or 7:45 a.m.

The first return trip from Manhattan's Pier 11 to Riis Landing leaves at 3:30 p.m., followed by 5:30 p.m. It takes a commuter an hour to go from Riis landing to Pier 11 with a stop in between at the Brooklyn Army terminal in Sunset Park.

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