The new NYC Ferry service officially launched on Monday. The first two routes are now open for commuters, and four more will open up over the next year. The old East River Ferry has been looped into the service, and a new route that connects Wall Street to the Rockaways with a stop at Sunset Park in between fills a substantial transit hole in the city.
Last week, Time Out previewed the freshly-christened NYC Ferry boats (which were named by local public schoolchildren), and on Monday morning, we took a ride from Sunset Park's Brooklyn Army Terminal to Wall Street on the Rockaway line.
Here's a breakdown of what it's like to ride the ferries.
Let's start with the boats
The NYC Ferry boats are operated by Hornblower, a company that also operates a series of charter cruises in the New York area. The boats were built in two separate shipyards in Bayou La Batre, Alabama and Franklin, Louisiana. They were piloted around Florida and up the Atlantic coast before arriving in New York Harbor just weeks before the service's launch date.
Each vessel has a capacity of 149 people, so if the ferries catch on you might have trouble scoring a seat. Below deck, there is ample seating, but it's pretty poorly lit. Above deck, passengers can relax at tables and take in the view. The boats are equipped with free wifi, which is immensely better than the service you'll find underground. The most intriguing part of the ferries, though, is the concession stands on board. Operated by New Stand, a boutique vendor that has locations at the Union Square and Columbus Circle subway stations, the stands offer coffee and snacks throughout the day, and serve beer from Brooklyn Brewery and wine from Gotham Project in the evenings. They also sell a whole run of day-to-day items like headphones, office supplies and first aid kits.
Tickets for the ferry are incredibly affordable
A one-way ticket on the NYC Ferry costs just $2.75, which is the same price as a ride on the subway. The difference: you're on a boat with a goddamn store on it instead of a jam-packed train car. Commuters can also bring the bikes aboard by paying a $1 surcharge. A 30-day pass costs $121 (again, the same as a MetroCard), and a 30-day with bike storage goes for $141. In all, the service could be an affordable transit alternative for New Yorkers who live near a ferry station. That said, dropping $121 on both a MetroCard and a NYC Ferry pass would likely break the bank.
Passengers can purchase tickets at each terminal or on the ferry's handy new app. The team from New Stand said that it is working with its developers to give customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages, but that functionality has yet to be rolled out.
The views are incredible if you can stand the wind
If you're looking for a cheap, scenic New York boat ride, look no further than the new ferry service. The route between Sunset Park and Wall Street provides picturesque views of the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and more. The ferries cruise at relatively high speeds, which makes for a windy ride. If you can stand the weather and aren't prone to seasickness, the top decks of these ships provide a cheap, unique opportunity to snap some pretty great photos.
The service will take a while to roll out
The launch of the NYC Ferry only comes with one new route (Rockaway) as the East River Ferry route is essentially unchanged—with the exceptions of the updated boats and weekend service to Governors Island during the summer. The trip from Wall Street to the Rockaways is roughly an hour, but riding between Wall Street and Sunset Park takes less than 15 minutes. New Yorkers have long been begging for a quick, affordable way to head out to the Rockaways, and the ferries give them just that (as well as a legal way to drink along the way).
Transferring between different routes at the same station will be free for riders, but it's going to take a while for the other four routes on the service to be rolled out. The South Brooklyn route will open up in June, the Astoria route in August and both the Lower East Side and Soundview routes won't make their debut until the summer of 2018. The routes certainly fill some transit gaps across the city, but service on them is noticeably absent from the Bronx.
The ferries probably won't become a means for day-to-day commuting for most of the people who ride them, but will rather serve as a cheap, more pleasant alternative to the subway. Time will tell whether or not they're a success, but the city is already going all-in on the concept.