NEW YORK - The NYC Ferry is a smooth ride at $2.75, but it comes at a steep cost for taxpayers.
A new study by the Citizens Budget Commission finds that each trip costs taxpayers $10.73. That's more than 10 times the subsidy for a trip on the subway at $1.05.
The analysis questions the financial wisdom of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature transportation accomplishment at a time when the bus and subway system desperately needs more cash.
They point out that the subway system has more passengers on an average weekday than the new network of ferry routes carries in a year.
"Every dollar that goes into ferry service could be comparatively invested in improving bus service or expanding bike share or investing in the subways and MTA," said Sean Campion, a senior research associate at Citizens Budget Commission.
The high cost of the two-year-old ferry service is the result of its long routes - stops that serve relatively few riders and the mayor’s decision to make the fare the same as the cost of a MetroCard swipe.
City officials defend the ferry subsidy saying it covers start-up costs. They say that as the service continues to grow total revenues will increase, reducing the size of the subsidy.
Advocates for the service acknowledge the city could take in more money. For example, by charging tourists a higher fare. But that the current investment is worth it.
"Your New York commuter should have this service in those neighborhoods like Astoria, Soundview, Rockaways. They need it and it improves lives tremendously and it’s become part of the fabric of the city. And we should improve it, not kill it," said Roland Lewis, President and CEO of Waterfront Alliance.
Ferry riders said the service is well worth the tax dollars.
"I definitely appreciate it because I find it to be a very nice ride, it’s clean, it’s lovely, it’s safe to take kids on there," said one ferry rider.
City officials say that when all the routes are running and the service finds its sea legs the subsidy will go down. But nobody projects that the ferry will ever stop swimming in subsidies.