NYC Ferry’s new Soundview route: Fewer boats, longer waits

Banner, NYC Ferry Astoria landing
A banner marks NYC Ferry’s landing in Astoria, Queens, 10 June 2018.

This month, two long-planned and long-promised NYC Ferry routes finally launch. These routes will introduce four new ferry landings and bring ferry service to a fourth of the city’s five boroughs. (Sorry, Staten Island — you’re still left out. For now.) The first of these, the new Soundview (SV) route, makes its first Manhattan-bound departure at 6.30 this Wednesday, 15 August 2018.

SV ferries will travel from a landing at Clason Point Park in the Soundview section of the Bronx. It will stop at a new landing at East 90th Street in Manhattan before continuing to the ferry hub at East 34th Street. From there it will mirror the Astoria (AST) ferry’s express service down the East River to Pier 11/Wall Street.

Total travel time will be just under an hour: 54 minutes, to be exact. By comparison, commuting by subway from the Parkchester station — the closest one to the new Soundview ferry landing — via the 6 express and 4/5 takes about 53 minutes, including time waiting for connecting trains at the 125 St station in Harlem.

Headways, or how often ferries depart, are difficult to pin down for this route. Morning peak headways range from 32 to 39 minutes, with the average time between inbound ferries just over 34 minutes. They seem to coordinate some with arrivals of the Bx27 bus, whose southern terminal, at Soundview and Cornell avenues, is a few blocks from the Soundview ferry landing. (The Bx39 bus also ends here, though the ferry schedule doesn’t seem to have any correlation with its timetable.)

Midday, from 10.31 to 15.31, inbound ferries will depart every 50 minutes.

After that, and until 50-minute headways begin again at 19.30 through the end of service at 21.10, headways are once again all over the place. If you miss the 18.37 ferry from Soundview to Manhattan, for example, you’ll have just 16 minutes to wait for the next one. But miss the 15.31 ferry and you’ll have over an hour — 63 minutes, in fact — to wait for the next one at 16.34. Overall, afternoon inbound peak ferries depart Soundview on average every 39 minutes, though the average headway drops to 35 minutes if you exclude that 63-minute wait from the afternoon peak (which, honestly, is a bit early for rush hour anyway).

Outbound, from Pier 11/Wall Street to Soundview, the story is much the same. Morning peak headways range from 32 to 35 minutes, 33½ minutes on average; midday, from 9.42 to 16.42, Bronx-bound ferries will depart every 50 minutes; during the afternoon peak, ferries marked SV will depart Wall Street every 24 to 39 minutes, or every 34 minutes 15 seconds on average; and in the evenings, from 18.41 to the end of outbound service at 21.01, Soundview ferries will depart every 50 minutes.

On weekdays, there will be 42 new ferry journeys offered by the SV route, 22 inbound and 20 outbound — fewer than any route in the current system.

On weekends, headways will be consistent all day, with departures every 50 minutes in both directions, inbound from Soundview between 6.30 and 21.30 and outbound from Pier 11 between 7.21 and 21.31. Weekend SV service will offer 37 departures every Saturday and Sunday, 19 inbound and 18 outbound.

Overall, the new Soundview route will offer 284 trips every week, nearly a quarter (23%) fewer than the Rockaway route, which is currently the system’s least frequent service. Across the board, service will be considerably less frequent than on other current routes in the NYC Ferry system. For example, the longest wait times on the South Brooklyn (SB) route in the middle of the day are 45 minutes, compared to SV’s 50-minute headways; on weekends SB headways, currently the least frequent weekend service, are half those of the new SV route.

One final note: coincidentally, or perhaps not, the new East 90th Street landing is just a short walk from Gracie Mansion, the official residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has championed the establishment of a citywide-except-Staten-Island ferry system. (Yes, Mr. de Blasio and his family actually live in the mansion. And admittedly Carl Schurz Park, in which Gracie Mansion sits, was long the part of Manhattan farthest from the subway, though that is no longer the case since the opening of the Second Avenue Subway and the extension of Q train service to East 96th Street.) The new service, however, does not include a stop at East 62nd Street as the New York City Economic Development Corporation originally planned (and which, oddly, still has a page on NYC Ferry’s site).


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