Roberts released a statement on Wednesday opposing the fare increase. "This increase, on top of last fall's, is unjustified," said Roberts. "An 11th hour approach in raising fares does a disservice to commuters and others who rely on ferry service."
Roberts noted that NY Waterway has received millions in federal Emergency Management Agency funds since 2001, but the government doesn't regulate its fares. The ferry company explained in a release, "As you are aware, the rising cost of fuel has forced many private transportation providers, such as airlines, taxicabs, livery cars and private commuter buses, to increase fares or impose fuel surcharges." Fare increases will take effect June 1.
The increases run from seven to 34 percent, with the largest increase facing commuters who take ferries from the Hoboken and Jersey City terminals to Pier 11, which is near Wall Street. A monthly pass for this route will rise from $92 to $123, and a one-way ticket will jump from $3 to $4. The monthly pass from Hoboken and Jersey City to the World Financial Center will increase by 17 percent to $107.50.
A one-way ticket on all other routes will cost an extra 50 cents, according to the notice. Company officials have declined to comment beyond what is discussed in the passenger notice. Last Labor Day, NY Waterway instituted 15 percent hike increases for monthly passes from Hoboken. The privately owned company said that increase was needed to offset an anticipated loss of revenue when PATH train service resumed in Lower Manhattan in 2003.
The past three years have been a wild ride for the ferry provider. Following the attacks of 9/11, which destroyed the World Trade Center PATH station, ridership more than doubled to over 60,000 riders per day. Before that, NY Waterway had been credited with transporting people across the river free of charge on Sept. 11. But now that the PATH has reopened, only around 34,000 passengers take NY Waterway ferries each day.
Roberts responds Roberts said that he will ask NY Waterway to hold a public hearing before the June 1 hike. "Once again, there were no public hearings and there was no advance notice of up to a 34 percent fare increase," said Roberts. "This is outrageous and unfair to the thousands of Hoboken commuters who rely on public transportation to get to their jobs."
He added that he would like the see government action to ensure that the fare hike is actually needed.
"I would like Governor McGreevey and Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia to ensure that this fare increase is justified," Mayor Roberts said. A privately-owned business can raise its rate at its whim, and currently there are no state or federal regulations on Waterway's operations and fare hikes. Waterway does receive the bulk of its revenue from ticket sales and only rarely has accepted subsidies.
"NY Waterway is a family-run business which receives no government operating subsidy, unlike the public transit systems with which we must compete," read Waterway's passenger notice. "Therefore, NY Waterway must price its services accordingly."
But, Roberts said, NY Waterways has received the benefit of government aid in the form of exclusivity agreements with the Port Authority and did receive millions in subsidies since 2001. NY Waterway was given the exclusive right to provide ferry service from Hoboken to all of Lower Manhattan by the Port Authority, which, said Roberts, is a de facto subsidy. Even though the Port Authority ended NY Waterway's subsidy program last year, Roberts believes that NY Waterway is still reaping the benefit of government partnerships and should be more accountable to area residents and commuters. NY Waterway was the beneficiary of some $35 million of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to enhance ferry and bus services from Hoboken since 2001. At its peak, the program was paying Waterway $2.6 million per month to run ferries from New Jersey to Manhattan.
,br> Additionally, NY Waterway has been the direct recipient of a number of FEMA-funded capital construction projects totaling over $10 million during the same period. Waterway will also get the exclusive opportunity to lease a new $53 million, 30,000-square-foot ferry terminal in Weehawken that is being built by NJ Transit using federal funds, slated to open in December of 2005.
New Jersey transportation officials have approved a 32-year lease with NY Waterway giving the company exclusive rights to run boats from the facility. According to the agreement, the company will pay rent to NJ Transit as per the number of daily passengers who use the terminal. NJ Transit is guaranteed a minimum annual payment of $600,000 for use of the site.
These types of government benefits invite regulation and some level of governmental oversight, said Roberts.