Twice as Many Riders as Expected
By Zach Campbell
BROOKLYN — A new East River ferry service started in June as a pilot program run by the BillyBey Ferry Company and the NY Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has received praise from riders and residents of nearby neighborhoods.
In one week the East River ferry will begin its winter schedule, cutting non-peak service in half. Its peak morning and afternoon commuter service, however, will remain the same, running every 20 minutes from Manhattan’s Pier 11 to East 34th Street via four stops in Brooklyn and one in Queens.
The entire route takes about 30 minutes, averaging 5 minutes between stops. The ferry provides an easy mode of transportation for residents living on or near the waterfront. BillyBey is associated with the well-known NY Waterway company, which has operated ferries between Manhattan and New Jersey since the 1980s.
“Everybody takes it — commuters, families, tourists. It gets you around very quickly,” said one ferry employee, as she collected tickets and cleared the boat for departure. “And there are lots of commuters from Greenpoint to 34th Street.”
The ferry provides a particularly important link for Greenpoint residents, who otherwise would have to transfer from the G train or a bus to another train in order to go to Manhattan.
This program is the last in a line of efforts aimed at creating a system of commuter ferries across the East River. Since service started this past June, ridership has been more than double what was projected, servicing more than 23,000 riders weekly, as opposed to the projected 9,000.
Riders credit this success to the locations, schedule, price and new residential development along the waterfront.
“It is wonderful — I take it to work every day,” said a 35-year Brooklyn Heights resident who works in Midtown. He had nothing but praise for the boats and their free bus service around Midtown Manhattan, and said that both are always on time.
“It’s worth the extra money to have the peace of mind that comes with not having to take the subway,” he added.
EDC ridership data shows that the vast majority of weekday riders are boarding the ferry in North Williamsburg, on Fulton Ferry Landing, and at the two Manhattan stops.
Weekend ridership is more evenly spread among all the ferry’s stops.
The service is a pilot program, run as part of a three-year $9 million contract signed with the city earlier this year. It is subsidized by the city.
There are so far no plans for an expansion of service in the spring. However, given the program’s success, it looks like the ferries are here to stay.
“Ridership has far exceeded expectations, and we’ve still got room on every ferry,” said a spokesperson for the EDC.