The ferry subsidy culture that is New York City

One of the new routes Mr. de Blasio announced this year — between Coney Island and Wall Street — is projected to require a subsidy from the city of $24.75 for every passenger, according to a report from the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization.

The commission said that the average subsidy for each passenger in the system’s first year of operation was $10.73, far more than the $6.60 subsidy the de Blasio administration originally estimated.

…Although it would cost $27.50 per person to ride the ferry from Coney Island to Wall Street, according to the Citizens Budget Commission’s report, the estimated 1,100 commuters will only pay $2.75.

Those are some high costs for a boat that sits on the water…here is the full story by Patrick McGeehan (NYT).


He studied environmentalism in California.

And, public finance at UC Shangri-La: "The rich don't pay their fair share!"

They took (on and off) 100 years to build nine miles of the Second Avenue subway. It cost $9 billion. Good thing they have four escalators because one or two are down most of the time.

You think health is expensive now, wait until AOC, DiBlasio, Ilhan Omar, et al take over and it's FREE and rationed.

"Put not thy trust in princes."

And, DiB and Thug-in-Chief Cuomo are imposing "congestion pricing" tax on motor vehicles in mid-town to reduce congestion and pay for free subways and free everything. Red light cameras and looming tax revenues from legal weed: what's not to like?

Not that I'm complaining. As a seasoned citizen (daily rising on the death panel list), I enjoy a reduced bus/subway fare of $1.35 from the NYCTA and $7.75 (imagine what full fare is) each-way on the LIRR, rarely use them.

And if the Dems had their way, all the tax money paid to fund this bloat and corruption would be deductible at the Federal level.

For the children, of course.

And yet, Cowen et al constantly remind us that the big densely populated cities are the only fit place for a modern human to live.

Meanwhile, out here in the CA suburban/wildland interface, I and my kids can and do ride a bicycle to school and work, or pay taxes up the Ying yang on gasoline to fuel my truck. Those gas taxes fund a flock of freeloaders, so the lefties can just STFU.

This Trio of Partisan Idiots has ruined the comment section.

Sorry, those posts cut right to the bone of of the issue: corruption, political patronage, expensive government employees, and the distorting effects of subsidies.

Why not let private businesses offer transportation services and let the market dictate the price. It works for everything else.

Don't be a cry baby!

Well, it is important that the poor and wretched of Wall Street get subsidized fare to Coney Island since, as an island, there are no roads or subways that get you from point A to point B.

If proponents of Big Government are so adamant that government provide public goods, then why do they keep spending taxpayer dollars on non-public goods like ferries?

de Blasio: "Anyone who wants to say, ‘Don’t start a whole new form of mass transit, what we got now is enough,’ come on into the subways with me and I’ll prove to you it’s not enough"

Classic government logic: because existing government mass transit isn't working well, we should do more of it.

"With a private company in charge, the routes of the East River Ferry were limited to places where demand was highest"

I see. The "market failure" with private ferry service is that it's driven by customer demand.

'because existing government mass transit isn't working well'

Almost as if a subway is not the same as a ferry. And this seems to work fairly well, actually - 'Today the Staten Island Ferry provides 22 million people a year (70,000 passengers a day not including weekend days) with ferry service between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan.' Maybe because islands might actually be well served by ferries as a form of transit, depending on circumstances.

(Wall Street - Coney Island sounds amusingly unsuited, though there is also a stop in Bar Ridge, and the ferry appears to be 13 minutes faster than the subway, at least to Coney Island.)

Well, Bay Ridge - no idea how many bars might be found there.

Unlike Coney Island, Bay Ridge is moderately prosperous and a lot of Wall Street back office workers live there. Still, there's a subway...

Sure, and I am not in any way defending the outrageous subsidy, but a fery is a quick and easy (one would have also thought inexpensive) way to connect two (or more places) water side places. In comparison to expanding subway capacity, for example.

Why is it so expensive to operate a ferry in one of the best port/river complexes on the planet?

I know the answer, but I want to read yours.

Using diesel to fuel a boat floating on water is a very efficient method to move people, and yet ... ?

The answer to this question is pregnant with information about the problem with big cities.

'I know the answer, but I want to read yours.'

So, you read the NYT? Since I never do, it is reasonable (for some measures of reasonable) to assume that the article provides some information.

I personally don't care even about the question why it the subsidy is so high, much less the details of the answer.

"...don't care ... about ... subsidy ..."

Clearly! Therein lies the problem!

Clock : "...seems to work fairly well..."

But at what cost?

This hot dog is delicious - it costs $117.32.

What's wrong with this picture?

'What's wrong with this picture?'

That is does not describe the Staten Island Ferry at all? 'The City has operated the Staten Island Ferry since 1905. The Ferry carries approximately 25 million passengers annually on a 5.2-mile run between the St. George Terminal in Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. The Ferry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Staten Island Ferry is the most reliable form of mass transit, with a consistent annual on-time performance record of over 92 percent during the last several years.'

Here is some more information about how much the Staten Island Ferry costs, from 2013 - 'Mayor Bloomberg's favorite cheap date, and our favorite cheap bar with a view, is free to ride. But it isn't actually free to run, obviously. And in fact, despite some of the highest ridership in a generation, it is getting more expensive now than it used to be (but it is getting better!). The Staten Island Advance crunched some official numbers and found that the average actual cost, per passenger per trip, for the ferry is $4.86, up 57 percent from a decade ago.

For some perspective, total ferry ridership in fiscal year 2012 was 22.178 million. How that compares to previous years is hard to say, because records from earlier decades are hard to pin down, but the Advance says that the year the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened ridership appears to have peaked at 27.5 million and has never gotten close to that again. Meanwhile, the cost for getting those 22.178 million merry passengers back and forth all night on the ferry? About $108 million total. On the plus side, the cost per passenger has actually been dropping since 2008 when it was $5.69!'

Why does it cost $27 per passenger? Do they send them in gondolas with costumed rowers or something? Jesus. A taxi from Coney Island to WTC costs $40!

I googled flights from London to Prague.
"Cheap flights to Prague (PRG) from €10.41 |"

Have you flown Ryanair? That ticket price (if past experience is still relevant) does not include any fees or taxes - for example, the landing fee at Prag is not part of the advertised €10.41.

They are still cheap by any measure, but Ryanair pushes the boundaries to the very limit.

Oh no I’ve been cucked too many times

High fixed cost, low utilization, I would imagine.

Makes me think the costs are a bit sketchy. If more people ride it then the cost goes down a lot even though you're spending the same on the boat. If you make it so you can use a metro card and transfer, that could attract more riders and that's just software changes.

What is the forgone costs of more affluent people taking cars all the way around and into the city rather than just sailing a straight line over the water?

How to save big $$$, just have fewer passengers! Simple!!

Do we have the data for the subsidy paid annually by each taxpayer to cover subway turnstile jumping youths?

"Mr. de Blasio has repeatedly pointed to the overcrowding and operational problems in the subways, which are controlled by the state and not the city, as justification for expanding the ferry service."

City Vs state issue. As long as the city is now bankrupt, they're fine.

Coney Island has a population of about 25,000, which I assume all work on Wall Street. No? Then what's the point of subsidizing the ferry between those two destinations? As other commenters have mentioned, the ferry stops at Bay Ridge but it has subway (about $3). My friend resides in Hingham, MA, and often rides the ferry into Boston where he works. (about $9 each way). The commuter rail runs through Hingham (about $8 each way), but I don't recall him ever saying he rides the rail. I assume the ferry is the faster alternative.

In my sunbelt city, which has no public transit except bus, the recently announced ferry service between St. Petersburg and Tampa (about $8 each way) has promise. Why? Because lots of folks reside in St. Petersburg and work in Tampa, and the bridges that connect the two cities suffer total gridlock during rush two-hour (rush hour doesn't adequately describe the experience). There will be no local government subsidies for operating costs, but local governments will help with capital costs of about $36 million (mainly for the terminals). The ferry operators have asked local governments to seek annual $30 million subsidies from the Florida Department of Transportation under the recently enacted, and euphemistically titled, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

Finally, cities in less developed countries located on the water often rely on ferry service for commuters. Sometimes with catastrophic consequences.

Has anyone thought of comparing ferry costs in New Amsterdam with those in Old Amsterdam? I mean the cost to the taxpayer, because:

"Ferries departing from behind Amsterdam Central Station are used to shuttle pedestrians, cyclists and mopeds to destinations across the water in Amsterdam Noord. The ferries are quick, easy and convenient to use. Ferry services across the IJ are free - you don't need to buy a ticket before boarding."

Because it is moving so many people, the NY area mass transit system needs to build in redundancies. If one goes down, others can cross-honor. This happens a lot - after snowstorms or major accidents.

Ferry service in particular is valuable because it is easily scalable. For example, 9/11 eliminated PATH trains to World Trade Center for about three years. But there was a ferry service already in place, so it was (relatively) straightforward to bring in passenger boats to seamlessly take up the slack. The alternative would have been to find a way to buy a few hundred buses and clog the already overcrowded bus system, or buy 10-20 additional locomotives and clog the already overcrowded Penn Station.
Not saying this particular service deserves the subsidy it receives. Just pointing out that there are considerations here - the value of redundant systems - ones that it would be interesting for an economist (thinking commenters are economists or want to think econometrically) to study, not berate.

Well spotted, redundancy is valuable, albeit it does not justifies $20+ subsidy per fare.

I don't know NYC that well, but could the subsidized ferries have any effect on the rental market? Make previously shunned areas attractive to people?

“I don't know NYC that well,” you should stop there before you keep cucking yourself

Ferry service in particular is valuable because it is easily scalable.

Is it ? Ferries are pretty slow and it take a long time for one to pull out and another ferry to come in. And then you have the problem that people have to walk from the dock at the other side which is not distributed around the city like bus stops or subway stops. Or as centrally located as a train station. So then you have to bus them from the dock anyway.

Personally I would think extra busses and trains would be much more easily scalable than ferries.

it's hard to clean a ferry as far as costs. that said, even the Stanton island ferry and the Alcatraz ferry cannot compare to Toronto ferry from the airport. the former two are heavy, while the latter is slick, wet, has a rhythmic gait. it is like Instagram because there is no music thus it feels stupendous.

>so it was (relatively) straightforward to bring in passenger boats to seamlessly take up the slack. The alternative would have been to find a way to buy a few hundred buses

That sounds backwords. I'd expect to be able to buy 100 buses tomorrow and/or borrow buses from another metro. All cities uses buses, and they moderate life/cost assets, so they are constantly buying some...

Ferries? Aren't they multi-million, build-to-order, 40 year life purchases?

Why think, when presented with a knee jerk opportunity to hate on public services, new york, and subsidized mass transit all via one context-free factoid

Throw Tyler in the East river that’s what I say!

Hating on Bill De Blasio is pretty fun, too.

Not as bad as knee-jerk support of a clearly inefficient use of public resources, just because it involves "public services" and "mass transit" (and a right-leaning economist is against it).

I never realized that ferry service was such a progressive sacred cow before.

You right Mikey! It's a frickin miracle I tell you. Delicious!

My rascette line had a blue scar. As I looked upon it, the Imam’s words beveled in my head. A skinny man’s grazing eyes, a mouth that bled words, a protruding vein. The minaret was on a delicate road called Jamberoo Street, a cement and sandstone building, dark, carpeted in red, the steering minutia of shoes and books.

Were we not promised just short years ago that our glorious Internet would yield "virtual offices" and "telecommuting" opportunities that would obviate ALL need for commutes to work by any means?

Physical "face-to-face" reality in our internet is NOT SUPPOSED to have any intrinsic value over and above or apart from the communications opportunities supplied by Holy Science and our lying and spying Tech Sector.

The same kind of gratuitous LIE (prevarication) was conjured concerning "paperless offices". (How are paperless toilets going over in the Five Boroughs these days?)

Our tech tyrants, committed to shameless lying, continue to lie so shamelessly that even New York politicians have begun taking up the behavior: dire days for the Republic.

. With the new Coney Island line, you’ll be able to get from Bay Ridge to Wall Street in under 20 minutes. I’m so happy I could cry.

The current scheduled time for the Bay Ridge to Wall Street trip is 43 minutes, with stops at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, Red Hook, Atlantic Avenue and DUMBO.

Ergo, "saving" 23 minutes on a trip from Bayridge to Wall Street will have a cost of over $! per minute.

Except for the absence of steam, this looks remarkably like one of those "full speed ahead into the past" moments. That is, the first steam-powered ferry between Manhattan and Brooklyn began service in 1814. And it was apparently quite successful, at least until the Brooklyn Bridge opened.

Except (of course) that Fulton's ferry didn't require (or get) subsidized.

But in keeping with the Green Theme, is there some reason why we couldn't ask the passengers to just row, row the boat?

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