TRENTON – A bill, sponsored by Senator Joseph V. Doria, Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny, Jr. and Senator Nicholas J. Sacco, which would allow the New Jersey Transit Authority to acquire and operate passenger ferries was signed into law yesterday by Governor Codey.
“The ferry is a crucial transportation link between Northern New Jersey and New York City, and must be protected for the sake of the thousands of commuters that ride the ferry every day,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson. “New York Waterway’s financial troubles had threatened to jeopardize the integrity of the entire North Jersey transportation infrastructure, but now, New Jersey transit has the tools to turn the ferry’s economic plight around. With new management from an organization that has a history of success with mass-transit in New Jersey, the ferry is now in good hands.”
The bill, S-2228, would amend current law to authorize New Jersey Transit to acquire and operate passenger ferry services. The bill would allow the Transit Authority to spend funds on ferry-related capital improvement projects, including ferry terminals, approach roadways, pedestrian accommodation, parking, docks, ramps and other necessary improvements. This bill is designed to address the fiscal crisis surrounding New York Waterway, which has lost $10 million in 2004 and $3.5 million in 2003, and has raised fares twice in the past year and a half.
“New York Waterway has been in a downward economic spiral as a result of growing too big too fast following September 11th, and once the rail service was restored to the City, the ferry was too large to sustain itself,” said Senator Kenny, D-Hudson. “The company has relied on short-term solutions to try to stabilize its financial losses, but those solutions have been on the backs of ferry riders, and have still not accomplished the desired effect. Short of a complete change in the way they do business, the ferry service and the commuters that rely on that service will be the victims of too much, too soon.”
According to statistics compiled by the Department of Transportation, the New York Waterway ferry serves 32,000 passengers a day. The Senate sponsors argued that, without the ferry operating between New Jersey and New York, the 32,000 commuters would have to rely on the already crowded trains and roads to get to work.
“Without an operating ferry serving 32,000 passengers a day, the other components in our transportation infrastructure will be swamped with new commuters,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen, the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “In North Jersey, the roads, rails and waterway exist in balance, and what happens to one indirectly affects the other two. In an area that has historically been known as the most densely populated in the nation, we cannot afford to lose a single transportation outlet, because it would mean that the other two services would have to bear the extra burden.”
The bill was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 58-13, with two abstentions, in February, and was approved by the Senate by a vote of 27-11 in March.