Lower Level Boarding Is Coming Back to the Staten Island Ferry Terminals
on Thursday, April 27th, 2017 at 11:22am.
At a recent press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that riders of the Staten Island Ferry will be able to board from the lower level at both the St. George and Whitehall terminals. After 13-years, lower-level boarding will resume at the beginning of September, from 7 AM to 9 AM, weekdays, at the St. George Ferry Terminal, and all day at Manhattan's Whitehall Ferry Terminal.
The reasoning to bring back lower level boarding is to improve service and increase Ferry rider's comfort by reducing congestion. By opening up the first level boarding, it will cost $2 million to implement.
The Staten Island Ferry conducts 23 million trips each year and carries nearly 70,000 passengers daily. A 2013 study from the city's Economic Development Corporation found that the number of riders for each ferry is not limited by the boat's capacity — but by a number of people who can board. While boats can hold between 5,200 to 3,680 passengers, only about 2,600 passengers can get on while the doors are open without causing delays.
The city stopped allowing lower level in compliance with the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, enacted by Congress as part of federal security measures after September 11, 2001. Under the law, the city must keep all passengers boarding the ferry separate from those disembarking. Currently, the city only makes exceptions to this prohibition of lower level boarding for passengers with disabilities or those riding bicycles.
This initiative is the result of Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s efforts that began last year to convince the city that the change was necessary. Oddo stated he was sensitized to this issue last year after he received a letter from a pregnant rider, who detailed her experience on what it is like to be pushed and shoved while on her way to board the boat to work. In agreement, the mayor had stated, that the ferry commuters have always had one of the longest commutes into the city and that it is the city's job to make it easier.
In addition to this, there will be three new ferry boats coming to the lineup. One boat is planned to be named after a Rossville Sand Ground Community that was one of the country's first free black-founded settlement, which was also an Underground Railroad stop. Another boat will be named after Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis, the Staten Island soldier who died while shielding a Polish fighter he did not know from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. These boats are set to sail in 2019.