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Recommended ferry fare from Glen Cove to Manhattan: $45 round trip

A study finds that amount is needed for an operator to break even on service from the new terminal near the Garvies Point development.

Commuters disembark at the Glen Cove Ferry Terminal

Commuters disembark at the Glen Cove Ferry Terminal on July 10, 2017, during the period of temporary service the MTA offered to and from Wall Street. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

A Glen Cove-to-Manhattan ferry could cost $45 or more per round trip, far above a Long Island Rail Road fare and more than commuters have said they are willing to pay, according to a draft version of a study on proposed ferry service.

The study recommends four ferry departures each rush-hour weekday morning, with stops at Wall Street and 34th Street, and four return boats in the afternoon, said Glen Cove Deputy Mayor Maureen Basdavanos.

The study, by Port Chester-based consultant TMS Waterfront, was financed by Uniondale-based developer RXR Realty, majority partner of the $1 billion Garvies Point development under construction next to the city’s ferry terminal.

The $45 fare is the estimated price needed for two 99-passenger boats that travel 62 percent full to break even, Basdavanos said. TMS projects initial ridership would be 62 percent or below but may build over time, she said.

Basdavanos agreed to discuss the draft study but declined to release it until it is finalized, likely within the next several days. Numbers could change, she said.

Basdavanos said the study will guide the city as it prepares next year to ask ferry operators to submit proposals to begin service in the spring of 2020. In 2016, when construction of the ferry terminal finished, Glen Cove failed to receive a single ferry proposal. The terminal has sat empty since then.

No routes or prices are final, and discounted monthly or 10-trip fares are likely, Basdavanos said.

A $45 fare would be 67 percent higher than the $27 LIRR commuters pay to travel round-trip during peak hours between Glen Cove and Penn Station. An LIRR monthly pass is $297.

A 2017 city survey of people who rode a special summer ferry to help LIRR passengers avoid “summer of hell” construction at Penn Station found that only 12 percent were willing to pay as much as $40 to $45 for round-trip ferry service. A 2015 city survey of potential ferry commuters found that 75 percent would pay no more than $25.

Basdavanos said some commuters — especially those who work on Wall Street near the ferry dock — would be willing to pay more for a shorter, “much more relaxing trip” aboard the ferry during which they could gaze at the water while sipping coffee sold at an onboard concession stand. LIRR commuters must transfer to the subway at Penn to get to jobs in lower Manhattan.

Donovan Finn, an urban planner at Stony Brook University, said “there are a substantial number of potential riders who can afford” the $45 fare.

“The question will be whether the experience [of the ferry] justifies the difference in cost,” he said.

Departure times should cater to commuters’ work schedules, Finn said. A chief complaint of the summer 2017 ferry was inconvenient times.

The fare amount depends on potential subsidies. RXR, which views the ferry as an amenity for future Garvies Point residents, has agreed to pay $1 million in subsidies over two years. Mayor Timothy Tenke has requested state subsidies, but the state has yet to commit anything. Tyrone Stevens, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said “conversations are ongoing‎.”

The $45 fare would be without subsidies and doesn’t account for ferry-operator profit, Basdavanos said.

Future options include adding cheaper, faster service to a dock in the Bronx where riders could connect with the New York City $2.75-a-ride ferry system, she said.

The study’s completion comes before a Jan. 1 deadline for the city to begin ferry service or risk an order to pay back up to $16.6 million in federal grants that were used to help build the ferry terminal and dredge Glen Cove Creek. A condition of the grants is regular ferry service.

The Federal Highway Administration is considering an extension of the Jan. 1 deadline but first wants to review the city’s plan for ferry service, which is why Glen Cove commissioned the study. Agency spokeswoman Nancy Singer said the deadline is unchanged for now.

Tenke argued in a May meeting with agency officials that launching ferry service next year would be difficult because barges and other equipment will be in Glen Cove Creek — from where boats would depart — for bulkhead installation and other work, and because of construction on Garvies Point Road, which leads to the terminal.

In addition, RXR is scheduled to finish construction of nearly half of the 1,110 apartments and condos planned for Garvies Point by the end of 2019.

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