City officials are upset over a recently published fare estimate for a proposed ferry line from Glen Cove into Manhattan. The estimate — $45 per round trip — was based on a draft study of the issue, and did not take into account a $1 million subsidy that could significantly reduce the fare.
“It was premature to print the $45 fare,” Mayor Tim Tenke said, adding that there were other factors — additional subsidies and specific route choices, among others — that would affect the final cost of a ferry ride into the city.
Ultimately, Tenke said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the cost of ferry service would be competitive with the railroad, which costs $27 for a round trip from Glen Cove to Penn Station.
Deputy Mayor Maureen Basdavanos added that without bringing a specific ferry operator on board, any estimate would more likely than not require ajustment. The fare in the draft, she said, was based on the expertise of TMS Waterfront, a consulting firm that compiled the study on the city’s behalf. “They’re numbers that right now we’re using for calculations,” Basdavanos said.
The study was commissioned to persuade state and federal agencies to push back a January 2019 deadline for the City of Glen Cove to retain a ferry operator, or to pay back over $16 million in grants that helped build the ferry terminal. They have, thusfar, not agreed to do so.
The subsidy has been promised to the city from real estate developer RXR, which has used the ferry as a selling point for its Garvies Point development. The development will feature over 1,000 residential units, all within walking distance of the Glen Cove Ferry Terminal. RXR also covered the cost of the TMS Waterfront study.
Tenke said that it wouldn’t be wise to begin ferry service while development is underway in the area, because barges carrying construction materials could interfere with the ferry’s travel routes, Tenke said, and could pose a safety risk.
According to the draft study, $45 is the minimum fare that a hypothetical ferry service operating two boats with capacities of 99 each, operating at 62 percent capacity would need in order to break even. From these figures, it follows that such a ferry service would cost a total of $5,535 per day.
RXR’s subsidy — $1 million over two years — comes out to almost $2,000 per weekday, more than a third of the daily break-even cost of the hypothetical ferry. And while city officials cautioned the Herald Gazette that the relationship between the subsidy and the fare would not be simple, the proportion of the subsidy to the thing being subsidized adds important context to the discussion.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Tenke said that the types of ferries that the city was looking at were hybrids, meaning that while they would operate using standard combustion engines while in open waters, when approaching port they would switch to electric to save gas and avoid noise pollution.