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Mayor de Blasio, Borough President Oddo, Council Member Rose Announce Expanded Passenger Boarding for the Staten Island Ferry

April 12, 2017

Ferry passengers will be able to board on the lower level at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan starting in September, while rush-hour lower-level boarding at St. George Terminal is also undertaken on Staten Island

 STATEN ISLAND—Mayor Bill de Blasio, Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo, Council Member Debi Rose, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Staten Island Ferry Chief Operating Officer James DeSimone today announced that passengers would this September be able to board from the lower levels in both Staten Island Ferry terminals.  The changes are expected to improve passenger circulation and relieve bottlenecks at the Staten Island Ferry, which currently carries nearly 70,000 daily passengers, with over 23 million trips in 2016 – ridership that is anticipated to grow even further with several major developments on Staten Island’s North Shore in the next year.

“Each morning and evening, Staten Islanders face huge crowds pushing their way onto the ferry," said Mayor de Blasio.  “They spoke up, and we listened.  With ridership breaking records, we’re taking steps to reducing crowding while keeping passengers safe. Lower Level boarding means more ways onto the boat, which means a more pleasant ride and fewer delays in the terminal.”

"This is a straightforward way to make the commute a little more tolerable. Who among us has not been stuck in massive crush of people while boarding the Ferry, forced to shuffle along like a zombie on the 'Walking Dead.' On this issue, I wrote to DOT asking for the change and discussed it directly with the Mayor during our dinner at Aunt Butchies," said Staten Island Borough President James S. Oddo. "Thank you to the Mayor for coming through and bringing lower level boarding to both Whitehall and St. George. This action will help alleviate some of the human traffic jams, and make for a better experience for commuters." 

"I am always at the ready to extol service upgrades provided by our New York City agencies and today is no exception. Enhancing boarding capabilities by DOT at our St. George and Whitehall terminals is an easy thumbs up. We experience passenger bottlenecks on a regular basis and know full well that those bottlenecks will increase as our North Shore developments come online and join the local travelers during harbor crossings.  Our goal is to improve service whenever possible and that has been met in Mayor de Blasio's announcement this morning as we join him, Commissioner Trottenberg and Captain DeSimone. 

But we also recognize the pang when this boarding convenience was lost in the aftermath of 9/11 in order to meet security concerns. That is what makes this wonderful announcement both poignant and celebratory. The voice of our residents was clearly heard and felt.  This is another fine day in the long and storied history of the illustrious Staten Island Ferry," said Council Member Debi Rose.

In September, DOT will begin lower-level boarding at the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, and also at the same time begin permitting lower-level boarding pilot during morning rush (7-9 A.M.) at Staten Island's St. George Terminal.  St. George passengers entering the terminal via the Kiss & Ride will have the option of accessing the lower level.  DOT will collect usage data to measure the effectiveness of lower level boarding at St. George.

In the immediate near term, DOT will continue with its study of improving passenger circulation on the main waiting room level at St. George and will begin a trial of opening multiple boarding doors to improve throughput and ease bottlenecks that sometimes develop.  Building on these initiatives, DOT will also undertake a longer-term capital study to explore the best options for permanent lower level build-out. This study, expected to begin this summer, will be conducted over approximately 18 months and coordinate with resiliency and flood proofing capital work that is already planned for the ferry terminals.

Altogether these efforts to enhance boarding are expected to cost $2 million next year.

Security and the safety of passengers remain the foremost determinants in the handling of the passenger boarding and disembarkment process.  After 9/11, lower-level boarding and passenger vehicle passage on the ferry were both ended under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, a Federal law which had required a full risk assessment.  An assessment of the terminals by a team representing the US Coast Guard, the  Security Administration, NYPD Counter Terrorism and third-party security experts submitted a security plan, subsequently approved by the Coast Guard that determined that the lower levels of both terminals be designated “restricted areas” with extremely limited access. DOT must follow the Federal requirement that boarding passengers be kept separate from disembarking passengers, who have since then only been permitted to exit through the lower levels of each terminal. 

With today’s announcement the de Blasio Administration is committed to increasing the security presence on the lower levels to ensure that embarking passengers and  disembarking passengers remain separate, as Federal law requires. Whitehall’s smaller footprint of 12,000 sq. ft allows for a easier conversion to lower-level boarding, while St. George Terminal (at 60,000 sq. ft.) presents several challenges that DOT expects to address during implementation.

"We heard loud and clear from Staten Island ferry riders that they wanted an easier commute so we are proud to be unveiling an improved boarding experience at both St. George and Whitehall terminals" said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "From increased overnight service and new amenities like mobile-phone charging to the three new boats we expect to set sail starting in 2019, the de Blasio Administration has worked hard to improve the experience of Staten Island Ferry riders. Lower-level boarding on the ferry will further enhance the inimitable ferry experience – and will benefit both the commuters who make their way across the harbor each day and the tourists for whom riding the ferry is now one of New York City's great must-do experiences." 

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