New York City's East River Ferry Expanding Passenger Ferry Service and Stimulating Economic Development in the New York City Region

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - appraisal/evaluation, mode - ferry, place - north america, planning - marketing/promotion


New York, East River Ferry, transit planning, marketing/promotion


All along New York City's premier waterfront, changes in zoning and land use have been implemented to spur economic growth in the region and revitalize areas that have seen years of decline. As regional growth continues, it is logical to look at waterways to accommodate these new developments and move New Yorkers efficiently and sustainably. However, to enhance the economic viability of ferry systems and warrant public and private investment, these systems must be incorporated into the overall economic planning efforts for the region. This paper focuses on the New York City Economic Development Corporation's East River Ferry pilot as a case study to show the importance of integrating transit planning into the economic development process. The New York City Economic Development Corporation's strategic approach was informed by several key sources: the Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study, lessons learned from evaluating prior services, and focus groups with residents from Brooklyn and Queens. This informed approach helped lead to a successful start to the pilot service. The collaborative process of engaging various stakeholders, initial grassroots marketing efforts, and continued outreach using traditional and social media are also essential to improving the quality of service and influencing the way people commute to work. The success of the East River Ferry service not only serves as a best practice for other geographic areas, but also lays the groundwork for additional subsidized pilot programs and services in New York City, so that a robust passenger ferry system can once again prosper in the region.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.