New York City Looks For New Ferry Operator
By Skylar Woodhouse (Bloomberg) New York City is seeking bids from companies to operate its ferry system, a fleet of 38 boats that play a role in Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to lure riders back to public transportation.
While best known for its ferries gliding in and out of Manhattan, NYC Ferry, as the system is called, is used by 6 million travelers each year on routes that cover 70 nautical miles to all five boroughs. The city’s agreement with the current operator, HNY Ferry (Hornblower), is set to expire on Sept. 30 of next year.
One element city officials will look for is an applicant’s ability to create revenue for the unprofitable transit program. City taxpayers subsidize about $13 per ferry passenger, according to a six-year audit City Comptroller Brad Lander released in July that criticized the system for high cost and financial mismanagement.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation, overseer of NYC Ferry, said in a statement that the company it chooses must “deliver on first-class ridership experience, workforce development, revenue generation, and transparency.”
The EDC wants the ferries to have contactless ticketing, better access for people with disabilities and other improvements throughout the system’s 25 landings, according to the statement.
Adams has lavished attention on the ferry system as part of an effort to revive ridership on subways, commuter railroads and all public transit after the pandemic. The mayor in July unveiled a NYC Ferry Forward plan that starting Sept. 12 will allow at least 1 million low-income New Yorkers, senior citizens and people with disabilities to ride one way on one of the six ferry routes for $1.35, about half the current cost of a full-price ticket.
Single-ride fares will increase to $4 in a move to have tourists and other infrequent users help pay for the system. In July, the city estimated the plan may generate as much as $2 million in additional annual revenue.
The winner of the NYC Ferry competitive bidding process will be selected in January. Opening the contract to bids was part of the agreement signed with HNY Ferry in 2016, the EDC said in an emailed statement.
By Nic Querolo and Skylar Woodhouse © 2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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