Henry Grabar scrutinizes the new Rockaway Ferry for having minimal impact on transit congestion, even if it is a pleasant journey for its riders.

“This, Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised, is the beginning of a new era in New York City—a return to the water that will relieve congestion on the city’s roadways and railways. In fact, each ferry fits fewer people than a single subway car. The idea advanced by James Patchett, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, that these ferries could function as a substitute for the subway is ludicrous. The first half-dozen ferries carried 700 people from Rockaway and Sunset Park to Lower Manhattan, not even one subway train worth of people.”

“I arrived in Manhattan with a feeling of thrill and loathing. On the one hand, how delightful to travel through New York Harbor in a seat by the window, with a laptop connected to Wi-Fi, and a hot coffee on the table in front of me.

On the other hand, how shocking to see so much public money and initiative expended for the benefit of so few. Why? It’s partly an economic development strategy to encourage waterfront construction. It’s partly for leisure travel, which includes both tourists and New Yorkers—it’s hard to beat the views from the East River Ferry on a summer afternoon. It’s partly because ferry infrastructure can be deployed quickly. (Says it right there on the box: “Ready in just one mayoral term!”) And it’s partly that, since New York State retains control of the city’s real transit infrastructure (buses, subways, and trains), the mayor funnels his transit ambitions into toys like ferries and streetcars.”

 

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Ferry Tales, Slate

 

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