NEW YORK—Residents of Manhattan’s West Side now have another public transportation option—water taxi. New York Water Taxi unveiled its new route on Monday from Pier 84 at 44th Street and 12 Avenue, where it will run to the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan.
“We’re launching the West Side ferry in response to the mass amount of development that has been happening along the far West Side,” said Helena Durst, president of New York Water Taxi. “We see that the far West Side is transit starved and we’d like to be able to provide options for better transportation.”
This is the only commuter ferry on the Hudson River, and Durst says it is going to stay that way. Even if it doesn’t initially get the numbers needed to make it profitable, she says the company is looking for sponsorship, not tourists to make it work.
“A company could wrap the boat, they could be marketing in the interior of the boat and also we could brand the entire ferry service after that,” she said. But, she added, “We want to be able to divvy this up, provide more sponsorship opportunities rather than going with a single sponsor.”
Directly across the pier are large apartment complexes that could provide a solid rider base, assuming enough of these residents need to commute regularly to the financial district. The trip takes about 18 minutes by water taxi, as opposed to the 40 minutes it would take to get there by subway, and would be cheaper than taking a cab.
“It’s one of those things where it’s just an additional option,” said Justin Wiezel, a resident of the financial district who was there to see the launch. “So if you happen to live in Battery Park it’s simple because it happens to be right in the back yard, so instead of walking to the subway nine minutes, I can walk to the ferry in two.”
Several other people queued up to take the first water taxi ride said they would take it, but not regularly. One said it would be more convenient to take his car. Another said she would only ride it on her day off.
For now, the taxi will operate Monday to Friday in the mornings and evenings at a cost of $4.50 one-way or $8 round trip. Riders can buy tickets online or purchase them onboard with cash or credit.
From May 19-23 the rides will be free (with complimentary coffee and donuts). But there is a catch. The first week will be used as a test run to solicit feedback from riders. Based on what they hear, New York City Water Taxi may change its schedule, fares, and monthly commuter pass rollout, which is expected within the next couple of months.
Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.