High cost of providing New York City ferry service discussed at City Council hearing

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The high cost of providing ferry service in New York City was discussed at a City Council hearing on Wednesday.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio launched New York City Ferry two years ago, he expected about one and a half million riders a year.

But it's wildly popular - four million a year now use it.

The mayor admits it is extremely expensive, costing $57 million a year to operate it.

And $600 million will be spent soon on a big expansion, with taxpayers footing the bill for most of it.

The cost of a ride is the same as the subway: $2.75. That $2.75 a ride is how the subway keeps going.

But taxpayers subsidize the ferries to between $10 and $11 for each and every ride. Is it worth it?

City Councilman Antonio Reynoso pointed out Wednesday that most people using the new ferry are headed to the Financial District or Midtown, and are pretty affluent.

"Are we giving $10 per ride to someone who doesn't need the help when we're pretty much have the MTA falling apart and a bike system that receives zero in subsidies from the city of New York?," said Reynoso.

But in testimony Wednesday, the mayor's team defended the new ferry service because it goes where the subway often doesn't. And the subway is much slower than a ferry.

"We chose to serve far-flung places that are not well-served by transit like the Rockaways, Soundview, South Brooklyn and, coming soon, Coney Island," said James Katz of the Economic Development Council.

"Most of us can't get to certain locations," said City Councilman Paul Vallone. "This ferry service does that. The city subsidizing it to allow people to access it is what we should be doing."

The mayor's team also testified that by 2023 11 million people will ride New York City ferries every year. That's about three times today's number but even with that increased ridership, the ferries still won't pay for themselves.

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