NYC Ferry held back data on its well-to-do ridership

Max
Touhey

City surveys found that NYC Ferry riders often earned six-figure
salaries

Long-withheld surveys found that the typical NYC Ferry rider
raked in a six-figure salary, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio
insisting that the heavily-subsidized mode of transit would help
poor New Yorkers navigate the city.

A 2017 survey, which was among those
obtained by the New York Post
through a Freedom of Information
Law request with the NYC Economic Development Cooperation (NYCEDC),
gathered 1,345 responses over two weeks in July 2017. It found that
the median income of those surveyed was
between $100,000 and $150,000
—a trend that persisted a year
later, according to
another survey
conducted in the winter of 2018.

The revelation comes after de Blasio administration officials
testified at a 2019 City Council hearing
that they did not have such data
. James Wong, NYCEDC’s
director of the ferry system, told councilmembers that recording
rider incomes was not “our
common practice
” despite touting the system as being designed
with an “equity lens in mind.”

When pressed for an explanation by Brooklyn councilmember
Antonio Reynoso, Michael Morella, the Department of City
Planning’s director of waterfront and open space, asserted that
“we don’t have information on who precisely is riding the boats
today.”

But the new reports show that by the time those statements were
made, EDC had conducted three ridership surveys, two of which
specifically asked about income and concluded that the typical
rider’s median income was in the six figures.

Reynoso, who at April’s hearing questioned whether resources
poured into the ferry system could be better spent on potentially
more equitable modes of transit like the subway, buses, and Citi
Bike, said Monday that the ridership surveys confirmed his
fears.

“Newly released data finds that the median ferry rider’s
income is between $100 & $150k, proving what I’ve long
suspected: ferries don’t benefit those who most need access to
transportation,” Reynoso
said on Twitter
.

Passengers pay $2.75 per a ride but those voyages are subsidized
with taxpayer funds at $9.34 per trip, while the city’s
beleaguered subways and buses receive a fraction of the per-rider
subsidy. (The latest model of NYC ferry boats holds up to 350
riders, while a single subway train can carry upwards of 1,000
straphangers.)

The six-route service will soon see another expansion: The city
is working to create new stops in Coney Island, St. George, and
Manhattan’s west side, and has thus far committed $638.5 million
to the service through 2022.

NYCEDC spokesperson Christopher Singleton said that since NYC
Ferry’s launch in 2017, the service has proven to be “a much
needed transit option serving more than 14 million riders.” He
also noted that as the city has expanded routes beyond the initial
East River route—running from lower Manhattan, to north Brooklyn,
to Midtown—the system is serving “a much more diverse group of
riders.”


A fourth survey
conducted in the summer of 2019 put the median
annual income of riders between $75,000 and $100,000, it also found
that 64 percent of passengers are white.

“When asked at the hearing about ridership demographics, we
did not have comprehensive data on all routes to share,” said
Singleton. “To better guide our efforts and answer the legitimate
questions of the City Council, we undertook a more comprehensive
survey in the summer of 2019. We then … briefed interested
council members on that data and data from 2017-18—and published
all this information on the NYC Ferry website for the
public.”

Source: FS – NYC Real Estate
NYC Ferry held back data on its well-to-do ridership