RED HOOK — New York's first Citywide Ferry pulled into the harbor Sunday, bringing commuters and beach day-trippers one step closer to lower fares along the East River, GPS integration into Apple and Google maps — as well as a spot for their bikes and surfboards.
The first — as yet unnamed — ferry will be docking in New Jersey for the next few weeks until the new Brooklyn Navy Yard dock is up and running, said Cameron Clark, senior vice president and project manager of the Citywide Ferry, which will be operated by Hornblower Cruises.
The ferry is not yet sporting any branding or logos, and still awaits its name. That honor will go to a host of the city's second-graders, city officials revealed last week, who have already floated names ranging from "Lunchbox" to "Friendship Express."
The boat is owned by Hornblower, though the city retains an option to purchase it, Clark said.
The next three boats will leave their Alabama shipyard later this week and head together in a flotilla to New York, arriving in about nine to 13 days, depending on the weather, Clark said.
The first route, from Rockaway to the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Wall Street, will start with only two boats, sometime in June. A third boat will arrive later and serve as a back-up for the Rockaways, which needs a slightly more rugged boat than the river ferries because of winter weather demands, Clark said.
The Rockaway boats will each have space for three to four surfboards and all boats will be able to fit more than a dozen bikes. Those spots will all be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, Clark said.
The East River Ferry, currently owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, will get all new boats and is slowly transitioning over to a Citywide Ferry operation. When that happens sometime this summer, the route will remain the same and will be known as the East River Route of the Citywide Ferry. The East River Ferry travels from East 34th Street in Midtown to Long Island City, Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO and then to Wall Street (with an in-season Governors Island connection on weekends.)
The one-way-fare on the East River Ferry, currently $4 on weekdays and $6 on weekends will drop to $2.75. "We're in the middle of that transition," Clark said.
When the city's new ferry system launches, commuters will not be able to use their MetroCard to transfer for free to the the subways or buses operated by the MTA, which is state run. However, the Citywide Ferry is adopting a payment system that will offer flexibility and scalability down the line if the city and MTA do come to a fare-sharing agreement, Clark said.
Hornblower and Citywide Ferry officials are not at all involved in any political discussions with the state or MTA involving the politics of those negotiations, officials said.
The city's EDC — not officials at Hornblower's Citywide Ferry — will also be the ones to decide when the fare could increase or if routes should change, Clark said.
Officials for the city's EDC office did not respond to a request seeking comment on more precise dates about when the service will start and when the East River Ferry fare will drop. The EDC's Citywide Ferry plan calls for additional routes in the coming years to The Bronx and the Lower East Side.
The East River Ferry name change and price change will happen sometime this summer. Two more new routes will also start some time this summer. The South Brooklyn route will go from Bay Ridge to the Brooklyn Army Terminal to the Atlantic Basin in Red Hook to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park to Fulton Street in DUMBO and then to Wall Street. The Astoria route will travel to Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, and then to Manhattan's East 34th Street and Wall Street.
The South Brooklyn and East River routes will each operate with three dedicated boats and the Astoria route will have as many as four, Clark said. The goal for those three routes is for the boats to arrive only 20 or 25 minutes apart during peak travel times.
All the new boats will be outfitted with GPS and Hornblower currently has a team of software designers working to integrate the real-time tracking data into Google Maps and Apple Maps. All the data will be open source and available to other developers to integrate into other apps.