Ferry Frustrations

Earlier this week, I greeted my work day aboard the upper deck of the East River Ferry, which just started service from Greenpoint’s brand new India St. Pier. My fellow passengers and I lined the ships railings like wide-eyed pilgrims, taking in the curious wonders of the shoreline as we passed. We arrived at 34th street in under ten minutes, our sea legs barely earned.

India St. Pier
Passengers lined up Saturday for Greenpoint's new East River Ferry service.

Once in Manhattan however, the connecting shuttle bus detailed on the pier’s ferry map failed to materialize and I ended up walking the twenty or so blocks to my midtown office. I did eye some possible pre-ferry/after work watering holes within the squeaky clean blocks of Murray Hill (Pinetree Lodge you may have a Greenpoint regular). I would recommend bringing your bike as the travel options from that far east on the island are pretty limited and are not eligible for a transfer. Over all the experience was pleasant but not entirely practical.

The weekend service was a different story. On Saturday, my girlfriend and I waited for twenty-five minutes amongst a growing crowd on the pier, which was shadeless and hot in the mid-morning sun. The boat eventually docked and soon a ferryman approached us from the opposite side of the gate. “Only 6 of you…” He told the crowd of about fifty, a dozen of them a group of teenage bicyclists perhaps hoping to spend the day riding and picnicking on the lush greens of Governors Island. The lucky few hurried on board, the rest of us left to wait another half-hour on the pier, or to give up entirely.

I’m sure ridership will drop-off significantly once NY Waterways begins charging four-dollars a ride and I do understand that they need a few weeks to work out the kinks (they’ve already issued and advisory addressing capacity issues), but their slogan “Relax. We’ll get you there.” might take some time to stick. Our neighborhood has been underserviced for a long time and the Ferry is certainly part of the solution, but it may take some coordination with the MTA before a sea voyage becomes a practical part of many Greenpointers commutes.

 

7 Comments

  1. Mary McG says:

    Thanks. This confirms my worst fears about this ferry service. (I couldn’t try it during the free trial itself, because neither launch point is particularly convenient to my apartment or my office.) It’s being touted as a way to close the gaps in transit service to our neighborhoods, but it’s completely impractical for anyone who doesn’t work between 30th and 35th streets on the “way-East” side. Also, with the infrequency, it’s not helping. We already HAVE transit that comes every 20-30 minutes – the G train and the B62. Adding another option that lacks convenience (not to mention affordability) is going to seriously challenge adoption of this service. My hope is that the ferry operators will respond by making the service more useful to boost ridership, rather than to take it away when they realize ridership will be too low to maintain the service. I don’t think the novelty will be enough to get people on board.

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  2. D says:

    I took the ferry to work 4 out of 5 days last week, the only day that a bus was not waiting for us when we disembarked was the first day. Because the joy riders were out in the evenings, I took it home only 3 days, but it still beats the 3 (!) trains I have to take to get to my job. I also love the ride on a boat, it’s so much more pleasurable than the trains!

    I really hope people will give it a chance. Media and bloggers have been pretty negative after only a week and I hope that this bad lip service isn’t already dooming the ferry before it can even get off the ground in the minds of the public. Sign up for their service alerts, use the GPS tracking they’ve provided to alert you to where the free buses are at any given time – use the tools that are provided to have a smoother commute.

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  3. Mary McG says:

    I took some time to try it out today. I went into it knowing that the ferry had advisories about long wait times but I was still shocked to wait 90 MINUTES for pickup from India St. heading to 34th St. Once I was on the boat, it was FABULOUS. Comfortable seats, a speedy ride, and gorgeous views. Even on the days when there’s no free shuttle, the M34 stop is right at the end of the dock, so it was still not so bad. But with the wait, it’s truly a time suck.

    I will say, my trip back from midtown was much more successful. A short wait this time, but there was no organization. No one was there until the boat docked, at which point a ferry employee got off and started lecturing us about getting lined up and how there was a “riot” the time before with people screaming. He got things in order, but didn’t exhibit much patience. A person stationed there to help keep order would be ideal. Signs would probably suffice, as well.

    I think we’re going to need better frequency OR a lower price for this to take off (ideally, both). I want nothing more than a success story and something to ease commuting pain for N. Brooklyn. Short of those improvements, take the ferry once in a while for fun, but it’s probably not going to change your life.

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  4. Peter says:

    I took it to a downtown meeting last Friday morning, and it was fast, direct, and nearly empty. That said, I’ve noticed that the loading/unloading procedures were pretty poorly organized which led to some confusion, and it’s clearly an issue that most piers have two docking spots but one (Schaefer Landing) only has one, leading to ferries idling in the harbor waiting to dock and falling off schedule.

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  5. Pingback: Brooklyn 11211 › Sizing Up the East River Ferry

  6. pHaney says:

    This morning a woman came running down the pier at India Street screaming “Wait! Wait!” to the boat that had just left the docks. Needless to say, the boat did not change course, and the woman was disappointed to learn that the next one wouldn’t be arriving for another twenty minutes.

    Until they start charging for rides it’s probably best to take it as it comes and not rely on it if you’re on a tight schedule.

    Reply
  7. Mark says:

    Thanks Everyone for the great comments. I plan on trying to make the Ferry work for my commute one way or another. “D” mentioned a GPS shuttle bus tracker, which will make getting back to the ferry a little easy. Below is the link, though I have not yet put it to practical use:

    http://tds1.saucontech.com/tds-map/nywmenu.htm

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