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Report Says NYC Ferry Mainly Used by Affluent, White New Yorkers

NYC Ferry at Astoria Landing (via NYC Ferry)

Oct. 1, 2019. By Shane O’Brien

Riders of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s heavily subsidized NYC Ferry system are predominately white and wealthy New Yorkers, according to a report released by the city on Tuesday.

The study, conducted by the Economic Development Corporation which runs the ferry along with private company Hornblower, was carried out over a two-week period in May and June and included over 5,400 ferry riders.

The EDC determined that 64 percent of ferry users were white, while a rider’s median income was between $75,000 and $99,000. The study also found that 86 percent of ferry riders identified as New Yorkers.

In contrast, a report from the office of Comptroller Scott Stringer in November 2017 found that the average income of bus riders in New York City was a meager $28,455.

Furthermore, 75 percent of bus users were people of color, while 55 percent of bus users were foreign born, according to the Comptroller’s report.

The Comptroller’s Office also found that the median income of subway riders was around $40,000 in a report at the same time. The report also found that roughly two-thirds of straphangers were people of color.

Stringer slammed the ferry system in light of the recent findings and said that more needed to be done to make it a fairer mode of transport. The Comptroller has been an outspoken critic of the ferry system in the past.

“If the City is serious about building out a robust ferry system that can succeed, then it must be run transparently and efficiently and serve a broad range of New Yorkers,” Stringer said. “These survey results show that EDC must do more to ensure the ferry system reaches those who need it most.”​

The Mayor’s ferry system received criticism earlier this year after a report from the Citizen’s Budget Commission (CBC) found that the city spends $10.73 per ferry rider to keep NYC Ferry afloat.

In comparison, the city only pays roughly $1.05 per subway rider.

The high subsidy for NYC Ferry is due to high operating costs and low revenue, according to the CBC.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson was also critical of the ferry system following the release of Tuesday’s report.

He said that while the ferries have helped some underserved neighborhoods in the city, there were still questions about the high levels of subsidy. Johnson said that the ferries didn’t serve people with lower incomes and said that the city needed to focus on speeding up buses and trains.

Johnson again called for control of New York’s public transport to be handed back to the city.

“Ferries can be part of a holistic transit system, but right now we don’t even have a holistic system. This is a perfect example of why we need municipal control of the subways and buses combined with a master plan for our streets – both of which I’m fighting for to help New Yorkers get around.”

NYC Ferry was established in May 2017 by de Blasio and has been heavily criticized for high costs.

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49 Comments

stev doran

i have lived in astoria ravenwood or long island city what ever you want to call it now anyone rem when the Q-19-a was one fare an going to the e train was a other if i want to pay 2.75 it coming out of my pocket if you dont want take the ferry dont

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Tom

NYC Ferry is totally awesome. It’s the best way to travel around NYC. I normally ride the the Rockaway line aka Wall St express from Sunset Park and it’s so nice to have a 10 minute ride to Wall st with scenic views of NYC. People like Scott Springer need to stop trolling the ferry and embrace it. Anyone of any race is welcome to ride the ferry at any time. This is one of the few thing that Bill de Blasio actually got right but does need expansion like going up the Hudson River, Carsanie, JFK and LGA Airports, Eastern Queens etc.

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FOH

There are like two dozen ferries running from 7:30 AM to 10 PM. There are 5,000+ buses running 24 hours a day. It doesn’t take a genius to see more money is spent per rider on the ferry than the bus system.

The Astoria stop is basically on top of the Astoria Houses housing project. The Stuyvesant Cove stop is right by the Jacob Riis housing complex. Nothing is stopping lower income people or POC from taking the boat. It’s the same price for everybody and transfers are free.

The ferry shouldn’t have to suffer because the MTA doesn’t know how to get its act together. Honestly, it sounds like Stringer is just trying to make a name for himself.

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Steve

Transfers to other ferries are free. If you want to transfer to an MTA bus or Subway, it costs an additional $2.75. That extra cost adds up big time if you’re low income.

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FOH

True: you cannot transfer from ferry to subway/bus for free, but if your commute were that complicated and you were that strapped for cash, you would probably just take one anyway.

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Tito

I don’t see anyone from Astoria Houses getting on the boat at the Astoria dock. The dock is literally at Astoria Houses!! No excuse on that front.

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Karim

Doesn’t this keep some affluent white people off cars? cause they ain’t taking the subway.

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Rick

But if it keeps the affluent white people out of the subway, doesn’t that benefit everyone?

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Larry Penner

The Federal Transit Administration earlier this year announced the opportunity to apply for $30 million in Fiscal Year 2019 competitive grant funding for passenger ferry projects nationwide. The Passenger Ferry Grant Program is authorized by Congress for projects that develop and support ferry service on many of the nation’s waterways, including the purchase, repair, and modernization of ferry boats, terminals, and related facilities that communities depend on.
FTA will award competitive grants to states and public entities to purchase, repair, or modernize ferry boats, terminals, and related facilities and equipment, supporting existing ferry service and the establishment of new passenger ferry service.
Did Mayor Bill de Blasio and local elected officials ask NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to submit grant applications to both the FTA Passenger Ferry Program and New York State Department of Transportation?

There are other annual FTA grant programs such as Urban Area Formula, Capital Annual Investment and Congestion Mitigation Air Quality that could also be used as funding sources.

Why not apply for capital grants from Washington and Albany to assist in funding? NYCDOT does this and receives millions annually on behalf of the Staten Island Ferry. Albany also provides State Transportation Operating Assistance for transportation systems such as the Staten Island Ferry along with local share against federal grants. Ridership on any transit service including ferries generates yearly federal transportation formula capital assistance. Numerous past private ferry operators have come and gone. They could not financially survive based upon farebox revenue alone without government subsidy. MTA bus, subway and commuter rail along with NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry is subsidized by a combination of City, State and Federal assistance for both capital and operating costs. All of these proposed new ferry services will require similar subsidies to survive.

Why not sell advertising on boats to generate revenue which can be used to offset some operating subsidies?

Riding a ferry can be less stressful than being packed in a subway car like sardines in a can or stuck on a bus running late in traffic.

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lucy

We could just subsidize Metrocards based on income instead of fighting over the decaying NYC public transportation system.

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Tula

The city should offer discounts or free passes to people on food stamps that ride the ferry. Minority ridership will increase this way and offer them other city options to get around.

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Stark

I like riding the ferry and not having to deal with being harassed by homeless people. It’s a clean, civilized ride. Most people are either working, reading or listening to music. If you can’t produce a ticket (paper or electronic), you’re not getting on. You can’t blow past the ticket checkers. I think that people would still take the ferry even if they raised the fare to $5.

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Claire

I recently took the ferry from Astoria to the lower eastside. There were 3 passengers including myself and my coworker and I think four workers. It was like some VIP private boat. We loved the ferry but felt so unsafe walking to the ferry station in Astoria.

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Melisa Vargas

Sounds nice!! But, afraid to walk by Astoria houses? WOW! If your a real New Yorker, you should know there are far worse areas to walk through!! The area is safe…..just mind your business!! – Former Astorian

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Stark

Claire makes a good point. When you get off the ferry, if you walk straight up 30th Avenue or Astoria Blvd, or turn to the left, you’re ok. If you go to the right, it’s a little sketchy but I’ve never felt unsafe. The bus stop is usually crowded since there are 3 lines that stop there.

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Al

Wasn’t it a system that was designed to be like this? Ferries from quickly gentrifying shoreline neighborhoods to Wall St. and Midtown could hardly be expected to attract a lot of riders from working class minority neighborhoods. Especially since little or no effort was made to integrate the ferries into the wider transit network, or to funnel people from further inland into the ferry system.

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Anonymous

The ferry will always be inherently limited because if you don’t live near the water, it simply won’t be a convenient means of transportation. If you don’t live in the Astoria or LIC part of Queens, you’ll almost never think of taking the ferry, for example.

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Stark

Tell that to the people who take the ferry to Rockaway and Soundview (not to mention the boats to NJ). Pier 11 is jam packed during rush hour so people are utilizing them. I work one block from the ferry but it’s a royal pain to get to the ferry landing from where I live in Astoria. The Q19 is terrible and is always delayed from Flushing. And they all seem to go ‘out of service’ when traveling back from 2nd Street to Flushing. Why is that?

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Name

And if you live near the water, the subway is absolutely inconvenient for you!

The N/W is over a MILE from Vernon Blvd. You can either walk (so much fun when it’s raining or snowing or 90 degrees out) OR take your chances waiting for the bus! And then once you get there, it’s a crapshoot whether the trains are stopping at your station or even running at all!

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VVNY

This report can’t be more racist. The ferry is open to anyone of any race. If someone chooses not to use it, what’s wrong with other people using it? Why does it have to be always about race these days? Not only whites make betw. 75-99K.

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Shelia

We all know that rich white people take the ferry to stay away from what they would call the dirty masses. I am glad they went public with this survey.

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VVNY

Sheila, first of all making 75-100K is not rich, especially in NYC. Any college educated person can make this much and more after working 5-10 in their field. Second, you don’t have to be white to be college educated. Third, what is your proposal here that if one group has it bad riding the subways then everyone else should be forced to ride the subways without any alternatives? That’s hindering the progress. Instead of striving to live a better life yourself you want others to be brought down to your level. Not that there is anything wrong with riding the subway. I ride it every day and am satisfied.

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DA17

It’s because its “heavily subsidized” by the city for people who can afford to ride it at full cost while people 1/3 their income who have to pay more for not only a shitter form of transportation but most the buses and trains are in one form or another ineffective but since the government is disproportionately white they tend to perhaps unconsciously make decisions, that seems only to advance their agenda , to give perspective, the farry roughly has 10,000 people who use it on a daily basis ,where as 4 million people use the bus and train a day , but the ferry riders are subsidized at 10x the rate of those who ride the bus or train , want to take a guess what the difference between the riders are .

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Stark

Even if I take the ferry, I still have to connect with a bus to get home from the ferry landing. I only take it occasionally because it’s so out of the way for me, but I’d ‘treat’ myself even if they raised it to $5. It’s a civilized ride.

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Stringer wants to be mayor

Scott Stringer is planning on running for mayor. Keep that in mind. He is no better than Trump at using race for his advantage. Watch for all the reports coming from Stringer’s office.

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Jessica

The question is, is it worth the money the city’s spending based on the current majority ridership demographic? The answer to that is no!! Something needs to be done to make it more affordable and accessible to minorities and the poor. Take your privileged thoughts elsewhere if you think that’s racists!

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VVNY

Jessica, the cost of the ferry equals the cost of a subway ride. How much cheaper do you want it to be? Are you dreaming of living practically for free?

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VVNY

Jessica, the you speak as if you owned this website. I think it’s open to everyone for discussion. Unless you know something that I don’t… Is there something wrong with me having a different opinion from yours?

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Stark

@Jessica; $2.75 is what you pay one-way on an MTA bus or subway. The only thing cheaper is jumping the turnstile or sneaking in through the back door.

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Jenastoriat

The real issue is the insufficiency of the bus system and the lack of subway access in lower income neighborhoods. ALSO because the ferry system is not part of the metro card system you cannot transfer from say the ferry to the bus. Obviously many people cannot afford to pay twice to get to work. The answer is making the system equally accessible and affordable to everyone. Not throwing the ferry under the bus so to speak. All systems need to be linked and affordable.

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Julie

The system is broken and too many people are just accepting things for what they are!!! MTA doesn’t care and riders don’t care so it’s whatever at this point IMO. It’s no mystery about the racial divide in this city but what are we the people doing about it?

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They pay the least taxes

Trump bragged that he doesn’t pay any taxes. That “makes him smart.” I can’t believe you completely forgot that.

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Stark

If we’re taking the ferry, we’re not in the Trump-o-sphere, financially. We pay taxes. And then some!

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Mac

So what?? These people pay taxes and shouldn’t be entitled to a simple benefit from their hard work?

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Higher Incomes Pay More

Mr. Mac: Regarding your “These people pay taxes”. The point you are missing is the higher the income the MORE a person pays in taxes. The lower the income the LESS a person pays in taxes. The result is the Higher incomes are paying MORE than the Lower income yet both are paying the same fare amount. Hence the Lower income are being subsidized by the Higher incomes and that is an unequal ratio fact.

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Stark

@Higher Incomes Pay More; Judging by the number of thumbs down to your post, lots of folks consider this an inconvenient fact.

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BB

Most of the new developments and restaurants in Astoria cater to white people. And the AOC part of Astoria is attracting even more of them who come to rent the older homes around here. They should also be criticized.

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Stark

@BB; they cater to what the area will bear; supply and demand. the only color that matters is GREEN.

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