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NYC Ferry expects 9 million riders by 2023

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The ferry is looking to double its fleet and add 350-passenger boats to meet the growing demand

Max Touhey

Due to the ever-increasing popularity of the NYC Ferry, the city is looking to invest an additional $300 million into the service over the next few years to increase capacity on its existing fleet, and increase frequency of service as well.

Mayor de Blasio made the announcement at the Bay Ridge ferry terminal earlier today saying, “we’re gearing up to meet the extraordinary demand for more public transit on our waterways.”

At present, the ferry has four operational routes; by the end of this summer two additional routes will launch, offering connections to the Lower East Side, and Soundview, in the Bronx. The city had estimated that the service would be used by 4.6 million riders annually once all six routes were up and running. However in first year of operation alone, the service saw 3.7 million riders hop on board a boat—and only two of the four existing routes were in operation for the past 12 months.

The city has now created a new estimate of 9 million riders by 2023, and as a result of it, are planning to add several new 350-passenger boats to the fleet in the coming years. The first of these new boats will start service later this summer on the busiest routes.

In addition the city is planning a host of new upgrades to the ferry infrastructure. In addition to its first home base in Brooklyn Navy Yard (which is nearing completion), the city will invest in a second homeport. The city will also make changes to existing terminals, particularly Pier 11/Wall Street, and East 34th Street, to accommodate more people and vessels.

In the lead up to what’s sure to be a busy summer on the ferry, the city will add up to 8 charter vessels to the fleet, each of which will fit about 250-500 passengers. It will also increase the frequency of service on weekdays and weekends with boats now arriving every 20-30 minutes. Starting Memorial Day Weekend, Governors Island will be the final stop on the East River and South Brooklyn routes to cater to the growing crowds visiting the island. Finally, the city plans to hire more staff at the terminals to speed up boarding and queuing.

“NYC Ferry is a great success story, and the expansion being announced today – two new routes this year along with more and bigger boats -- is more good news for New Yorkers looking to our beautiful waters to get themselves around,” said Polly Trottenberg, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, in a statement.