Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - forecasting, ridership - forecasting, ridership - demand, mode - ferry


Travel models (Travel demand), Travel demand, Scenarios, Ridership, Projections, Patronage (Transit ridership), New York Harbor, National parks, Market thresholds, Market assessment, Forecasting, Financial viability, Ferry service


A study team headed by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center analyzed the feasibility of developing a water transportation system to serve the national parks of New York Harbor. This assessment was designed to address two principal objectives: (a) determine the viability of water transportation as an access mode serving the parks and (b) develop a preliminary ferry service concept plan. An analysis of market (demand) and site (supply) factors was critical to the assessment. The standard methods of demand forecasting could not be used in the market analysis, however, because most of the necessary data were lacking. Thus, an alternative approach was developed to perform this essential part of the assessment. Necessary market thresholds were estimated by applying a cost model. These thresholds were compared with ridership scenarios that were considered to be reasonable and conservative. From this analysis, the financial viability of the proposed ferry services was determined. For the particular application, the analysis results were sufficiently persuasive to suggest that proposed services should be implemented on a trial basis. This approach recognizes the practical limitations of demand forecasting in an environment in which data characterizing existing travel behavior are deficient and proposed services may attract substantially new markets with different socioeconomic and travel behavior characteristics. Because these limitations frequently apply to the planning of ferries and land-based modes serving parks and other recreational facilities, the described approach may have widespread applications.