New York City's new NYC Ferry transport network has proven to be even more popular than expected. Last week, NYC Ferry announced that it reached the one million rider mark in 86 days, fully one month ahead of schedule.
The service's East River, South Brooklyn and Rockaway routes are in full operation, with a route covering Astoria set to start on August 29 and two new routes planned for next year – the Soundview Route to the Bronx and the Lower East Side Route along the east side of Manhattan.
Mayor Bill DeBlasio presided at a celebration ceremony in Long Island City. Social media and editorial commentary on the occasion pointed to just one problem – the popularity of the service, perhaps the best possible problem to have. To fill the unexpectedly high demand, the city and service operator Hornblower have already chartered-in two additional vessels, and they have expanded their shipbuilding order, upsizing three of their next newbuildings to a capacity of 249 passengers (up from 149). Part of the demand may be due to the shortfalls of New York's subway system: its aging equipment and heavy ridership have combined to produce long delays and service outages. The brand-new ferries provide much-needed relief for the city's stressed transit infrastructure, in addition to an enjoyable outing.
To launch the new service, the city and Hornblower ordered a series of 20 aluminum catamaran ferries from Horizon Shipbuilding and Metal Shark, two prominent shipbuilders on the Gulf Coast. The city's service contract called for rapid construction, and the yards delivered: the vessels started arriving in April, and NYC Ferry started in May – a month ahead of schedule. With the expanding ferry service, the city aspires to bring its waterborne transport network back towards levels last seen in the 1850s, when passenger vessels provided 40 million crossings a year between Brooklyn and Manhattan.