City Should Apply To State, Feds For Ferry Funding

To The Editor:

There is even more to “NYC Ferry Premiers In Rockaways” (Jon Cronin—May 5). NYC can also apply for capital grants from the New York State Department of Transportation and United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration to assist in funding. New York State also provides State Transportation Operating Assistance (STOA) for transportation systems. Ridership on any transit service generates yearly federal transportation formula capital assistance.

Numerous past private ferry operators have come and gone. They could not financially survive based upon fare-box revenue alone without some sort of government subsidy. Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus, subway and commuter rail along with New York City Department of Transportation 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 if they are to survive. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal for a fare structure of $2.75 per ride to match that of New York City Transit bus and subway will require a significant amount of operating subsidy.

Mayor de Blasio still needs to convince the MTA board to support his fare structure of $2.75 per ride to also include cross honoring a free transfer to a bus or subway using the MTA Metro Card. NYC has significant influence with both Albany and the MTA. Mayor de Blasio appoints four of the 15 member MTA Board. His four appointees to the MTA Board would have to lobby the majority of other fellow members for support. One of his members, NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, previously worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation and has an excellent background in transit. This includes how the MTA, NYC, New York State and Washington partner together in improving and funding public transportation.

Bronx New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appoints one of the four-member MTA Capital Program Review Board. They must approve all MTA Five Year Capital Plans and plan amendments, including adding new projects or funding. There are also 59 fellow Democrats in the State Assembly, out of 150 from NYC, who owe their allegiance to Heastie. A total of 22 of the 24 NYC State Senators are members of the Democratic State Senate caucus. They are lead by Westchester state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is friendly toward the Big Apple. Four of the seven-member Independent Democratic State Senate Conference chaired by Bronx/Westchester member Jeffrey Klein are from NYC.

Riders could purchase weekly or monthly passes for discounted fares. These could be supplemented by using transit checks, which will further reduce the cost per ride.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide waterborne high speed ferry will support new service for residents and communities of the Rockaways along with Soundview, Bronx; East 90th and East 62 Streets in Manhattan; Astoria, Long Island City, Roosevelt Island, Atlantic Avenue Pier 6, Red Hook, Brooklyn Army Terminal and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. There is also the potential for new service for Coney Island in Brooklyn and Stapleton in Staten Island.

Who would not want to enjoy the fresh air and breeze that only waterborne transportation can provide? Riding a ferry can be less stressful than being packed in a subway car like sardines in a can.

Larry Penner

Note: Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office

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