The East River Ferry, with nine stops including 34th Street,...

The East River Ferry, with nine stops including 34th Street, Greenpoint and Wall Street, has boasted high ridership while temperatures were pleasant, city officials said. (Oct. 21, 2011) Credit: Steven Sunshine

A popular ferry service that since June has shuttled riders along and across the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn faces its next test as the cold weather sets in.

The East River Ferry, with nine stops including 34th Street, Greenpoint and Wall Street, has boasted high ridership while temperatures were pleasant, city officials said. Commuters taking the ferry Friday lauded it as a convenient, scenic alternative to the subway.

But it's yet to be seen how the service will fare next month, when it runs less frequently and the inevitable frosty weather makes waiting on the docks less enjoyable.

College student Bob Pasquini, 29, pays $140 for the monthly pass -- $36 more than a monthly MetroCard -- to take the ferry between his Brooklyn home in Williamsburg and his school in Kips Bay in midtown Manhattan.

"It's a nice ride. You get to have coffee on a boat instead of running around the subway system," he said.

But Pasquini said he won't be buying another monthly pass until spring. "Waiting here is kind of hard today," he said of Friday's 50-degree temperatures. "And when it rains, that's worse, because there are no shelters. I probably won't be doing this during the winter."

The ferry service is in its fourth month of a three-year pilot, which the city is funding with $9.3 million to ensure affordability. One-way tickets cost $4, and more riders have taken advantage of the 24-knot trip than expected.

The ferries make several stops in Brooklyn, two in Manhattan and one in Queens as they head up and down the river. The northern hub is at 34th Street, where there's a free shuttle bus, south to Governors Island.

Nearly 349,000 passengers used the service as of Oct. 9, with 100,000 more taking free trips offered in the first 12 days of the program, according to city statistics.

The total ridership is close to what was projected for an entire year, said Paul Goodman, president of BillyBey Ferry Co., which operates the ferries.

"We're exceeding expectations in terms of ridership," he said. "It's something we have to continue to evaluate. The purpose of the pilot program is to learn."

City Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman Jen Friedberg said that though the city is pleased with the results, the program is still in its infancy.

Winter hours kick in on Nov. 1, when the ferries will run hourly during off-peak hours, rather than every 30 minutes during the summer. Trips at peak hours will remain 20 minutes apart.

Dina Handan, 34, of Long Island City, and son Adam Movahed, 5, take the ferry for a minutes-long ride between their home and his school, instead of the roundabout alternative: two trains and a bus.

"For me, it's totally worth the price, but I'm concerned they're going to drop back on hours," Handan said.

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