2010-03-05 / Editorial/Opinion

Rockaway Ferry Set Up For Failure

Rockaway resident Joe Hartigan is so focused on transportation alternatives that many call him “Mr. Ferry.” Recently, after the city announced that it would be shutting down ferry service from Riis Landing to Manhattan, Hartigan told us that the Rockaway ferry was “the wrong place with the wrong boat and the wrong schedule.” He is right. From the beginning, the Rockaway ferry service was doomed by several decisions made by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The most disastrous decision was to use an old fishing boat rather than the high speed ferries used on virtually all of the other ferry runs in and out of Manhattan. It took an hour for the Rockaway Princess to get from Riis Landing to Manhattan. And, since the run had only one boat, it took another hour for it to get back to Rockaway to reload. It was clear from the beginning that the service needed two boats, each of which would take 35 or 40 minutes to get to Manhattan and a like time to get back. That would have allowed for three or four runs each morning rather than the two the slower boat allowed. And, it would have allowed for a like number of commuter runs back in the late afternoon and evening. Secondly, utilizing Riis Landing as the only stop in Rockaway and Wall Street as the only stop in Manhattan severely restricted the use of the service by many Rockaway residents. One only has to look, for example, at what that means for a resident who lives in Arverne By The Sea and works in midtown. That commuter has to take a bus to Riis Landing, then board the boat for the trip to Pier 11. Arriving in Manhattan, that resident has to board another bus or a subway for a ride to midtown. That three-seat ride would most likely have cost more than $10 and taken about an hour and forty-five minutes, far more expensive and more time-consuming than a ride on the express bus that picks the commuter up right on her/his own corner and takes her/him to Manhattan. The service will soon be dormant, killed by a lack of ridership. Next time, if there is a next time, the service should utilize at least two high-speed boats to make at least three stops on the peninsula and two in Manhattan. This experiment failed. It was set up to fail. Next time, let’s do better.

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