- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Half a million more people rode the ferry last year, but most of the increase in ridership was due to the fact that the World Trade Center PATH line was shut down on weekends for repairs.

A total of 8.5 million people rode the ferries in 2014. NY Waterway and its subsidiary company BillyBey Ferry, had an increase of 530,319 passengers between 2013 and 2014.

Of that, 409,835 passengers were PATH riders, who used substitute ferry service offered between March and December, according to statistics from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which funded the price difference so ferry fare was the same as the $2.50 PATH fare at that time.

That service replaced weekend World Trade Center PATH trains during Hurricane Sandy rehabilitation work done last year.

Whether NY Waterway can hold onto those riders is hard to predict, said Arthur E. Imperatore, NY Waterway president and founder, who hopes to sell them on a faster commute and convenience. The ferry line retained some riders in north Hoboken who switched to it after Hurricane Sandy flooded the PATH system.

“We held on to some of that business, it’s hard to compete with a $2.75 fare,” he told NJ.com (https://bit.ly/1CY5wqS). “The (PATH) subsidy is enormous.”

By comparison, regular NY Waterway fares are unsubsidized. Imperatore said he hopes to convince riders to spend about $3 more for a ferry ticket because it is a quick ride across the river and a seamless connection to an NY Waterway bus on the New York side, to take them to various destinations in Manhattan.

“The connection is well coordinated, you get off a ferry and on to a bus,” Imperatore said. “People traveling our system save time, about 30-45 minutes at night.”

Other factors in the ridership growth include employment growth in New York, construction of an indoor parking garage at NY Waterway Weehawken terminal, which replaced outdoor lots, and more development along the Hudson River waterfront between Fort Lee and Jersey City, Imperatore said.

With room to spare on ferries even during rush hour, NJ Transit and NY Waterway joined in 2013 to offer a program where commuters who take a bus to New York can use the same ticket to ride the ferry home.

Ridership is steady on that service, serving between 620-680 commuters a week, said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman. Used by north Hudson and Bergen County residents, the ferry home program pulls riders out of the busy and crowded Port Authority Bus Terminal.

There is room aboard the ferries for more commuters who want to defect from the bus terminal and buses that get caught in rush hour Lincoln Tunnel traffic, Imperatore said.

“We have unused capacity, we’re probably the only (immediate) solution to the situation at the bus terminal,” he said.

NY Waterway operates tran Hudson ferries from terminals in Weehawken and Hoboken and various other locations in Hoboken and Jersey City. It also contracts with Monmouth County to run commuter ferries from the county’s Belford terminal.

The last growth in ridership came prior to the 2008 economic downturn, Smith said. Ferries did see a bounce in ridership after NJ Transit increased fares in 2010.

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Information from: NJ.com, https://www.nj.com

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