Press Release Transportation

CBC Releases "Swimming in Subsidies"

Report Details the High Cost of Subsidizing NYC Ferry

March 28, 2019

New York, NY – March 28, 2019 The Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) today released “Swimming in Subsidies,” a comprehensive report detailing the high operating subsidy for the NYC Ferry service. At $10.73 per ride, the operating subsidy for NYC Ferry is 10 times that of the New York City Transit (NYCT) system. Furthermore, NYC Ferry transports fewer people annually than the subway transports in a day.

The two main factors for the ferry’s significant subsidies are: high operating costs, driven up by long routes and seasonal and leisure-oriented ridership; and low revenue, due to the decision to peg the ferry fare to subway and bus fare.

“New York should invest its transportation dollars wisely,” said Andrew S. Rein, President of the Citizens Budget Commission. “When deciding how to expand services to those who may need them, the City should make policy choices that increase the ferry system’s cost-effectiveness, especially when it comes to weekend and leisure ridership.”

Launched three years ago, NYC Ferry serves more than 4 million passengers annually along six routes, with plans to add two additional routes by 2021 and reach 9 million riders by 2023. The expansion of NYC Ferry service will require even greater public subsidies—reaching as much as $24.75 per ride for the Coney Island route.

Compared to other transit operators, the ferry system serves relatively few riders. There were 24.5 million trips on the Staten Island Ferry, 89.2 million on the Long Island Railroad, 691 million on local MTA buses, and 2.7 billion on subways in 2017. 

EDC and City officials can take action to improve the system. For example, dynamic pricing models and modified schedules could be implemented for long, low-productivity routes that require substantial subsidies and see demand spikes on weekends. Express bus fares are higher than NYC Ferry’s and the previous ferry service charged a higher fare on weekends, which allowed it to recoup a larger share of its operating costs.

To read “Swimming in Subsidies” visit