Area ferry service competition heats up

New ferry boat soon
to replace fishing boat
in Keyport

By maura dowgin & Elaine Van Develde
Staff Writers

New ferry boat soon
to replace fishing boat
in Keyport

ELAINE VAN DEVELDE The fishing boat Suzie Girl ferries commuters to Manhattan from Keyport on the  morning of Nov. 4. NY Fast Ferry said it is expecting a new ferry any day now.ELAINE VAN DEVELDE The fishing boat Suzie Girl ferries commuters to Manhattan from Keyport on the morning of Nov. 4. NY Fast Ferry said it is expecting a new ferry any day now.

By maura dowgin & Elaine Van Develde

Staff Writers

New York Waterway’s ferry service out of the Belford section of Middletown has set sail and competition with other ferry operators has caused a small wake in otherwise calm business waters.

Dubbed the Bayshore Ferry Project, the Belford terminal, at the foot of Main Street, has attracted thousands in its first week of service.

The free parking lot has spaces for 500 cars and an overflow lot accommodates 250 spots. There is also a shuttle bus available to take customers from more remote corners of the lot to the terminal.

As a promotion, the first week of rides into and out of Manhattan were free.

New York Waterway principals felt the free rides would hook a new customer base into the new port and draw from other services, despite the Belford ferry’s slightly higher fare.

The fee is $450 for monthly pass. Ferries set sail every half hour from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

From Pier 11, return trips run every half hour from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Midday and evenings, ferries run every 90 minutes. The last ferry leaves Pier 11 at 11 p.m.

A week after the service has set sail, people asked said the frequency of rides is a major plus. The free parking in a paved lot and heated terminal don’t hurt either, commuters said.

Though there were no free rides on Monday morning at 7 a.m., the parking lot was nearly three-quarters full. Boats sailed in and out of the docks and customers still seemed to come from all ports.

Some came from other services in Highlands, Atlantic Highlands and Keyport and others migrated for the first time just to try Belford out.

Heather Lennon of the Locust section of Middletown, who called herself a loyal New York Fast Ferry rider, said she migrated to Belford mostly for the sake of more frequent runs into the City.

"I love New York Fast Ferry. Its service is very friendly," said Lennon. "I sometimes have to get to work very early, and this every half-hour schedule is better for me. I won’t take it every day, but I will be using the Belford service."

John Warnesky came to Belford from Jackson and said he takes both the bus and ferries to break up monotony. He doesn’t mind the commute to the Belford terminal and considers the available parking, trip frequency and the heated terminal major pluses.

"I like the fact that this is every half hour," said Warnesky. "I also like the parking lot and the terminal. Some lots aren’t paved. You wash your car on the weekend and it gets dirty again Monday from sitting in the lot. I do like New York Fast Ferry’s service out of Keyport because of the location, but they’ve been saying they’re going to get a new boat for months now and it’s still not in. The frequency is much more limited there, too."

After months of waiting and fishing-boat rides into New York City, the ferry which was promised months ago in Keyport is expected to be in service sometime this week.

The Keyport Fast Ferry finally arrived in the borough on Monday, Oct. 28. Residents of Keyport had a chance to look at the boat that night while it was docked in Keyport.

Everyone was glad to see the new ferry

instead of the fishing boat, said Mayor Kevin Graham.

The new boat carries 220 passengers and travels at 30 knots, said John Koenig, of New York Fast Ferry.

The ferry will take 45 minutes to get into New York City, Michael Cummins, of Keyport Landing, LLC.

The Suzie Girl, a fishing boat used to ferry commuters from Keyport to New York City since early this year, takes about one hour each way.

The new ferry is currently being inspected at Sandy Hook.

"The local Coast Guard has to check out a couple things," Koenig said.

This is a normal process and the ferry will be up and running as soon as possible, Koenig said.

Once the new ferry is in operation, a new schedule will take effect. There will be three departure times in the morning into New York City: 6 a.m., 7:45 a.m., and 8:40 a.m. All of the ferries go into Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street, Koenig said.

Monday through Friday there will be two return trips from New York City to Keyport in the afternoon at 4:30 p.m., 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday there will be a return trip at 8 p.m., in addition to the regular return trips. Friday there will be a return trip at 2:30, 4:30 and 6:15 p.m., Koenig said.

There will be no weekend service during the winter, Koenig said. The weekend service will start in the spring, Koenig said.

The fares will remain the same for the new ferry as they were for the fishing boat, Koenig said. For a one-way trip the fare is $15; round-trip tickets are $29; a 10-trip ticket is $130; a 40-trip ticket is $450; and a 120-trip ticket is $1,300. Children under 5 years old ride free with an adult.

The New York Waterway one-way fare is $15. The monthly ferry fare is $450 and includes free transfers at Pier 11 to New York Waterway ferries serving Jersey City, Hoboken, Brooklyn, Queens, East 34th Street and West 38th Street.

A 40-trip pass was added to the mix as a result of customer requests last week during free rides. A 40-trip ticket is now available for $500. For the first week of November, New York Waterway is also accepting trade-in tickets from other services.

That was a plus for Tom Walsh, who came to Belford’s service from Ocean Township. Walsh said he came to Belford for frequency, proximity to his child’s day care and now the fact that he can use passbook tickets that won’t pin him down to using one service.

"The price is kind of high," he said, "but if frequency of boats stays at every half hour and prices stay relatively competitive, I’ll keep coming back."

Bob Giglio, of Freehold, said he has used SeaStreak’s ferry service and customer service is good and the boats are bigger and better.

He said, however, that SeaStreak only has two boats. New York Waterway has four and one reserve boat.

New York Waterway spokesperson Pat Smith said last week the company has invested $12 million in capital on the boats and currently owns one. The others are being contracted but will soon belong to New York Waterway and be permanently refurbished.

"If they get better boats, I’ll stick with this service," said Giglio.

Meanwhile, as about 300 cars filled the lot at Belford by 7:30 a.m., 10 loyal New York Fast Ferry customers waited for the 8 a.m. temporary fishing boat out of Keyport into the City.

Those commuters came from very close by, mostly Hazlet. While they were weary of waiting to ride on the promised new ferry, they said they’d probably stick it out with this service because of location convenience.

There is no terminal in Keyport. Passengers waited on the docks outdoors. Patience with riding a fishing boat in the pending cold weather grew thin.

"This is close and convenient and the price is good," said Donna Schubert of Hazlet. "Though they are compensating us for the inconvenience of riding the fishing boat with two for one ticket deals, it’s now getting colder, the fishing boat has no heat and we’ve been promised a new ferry for months. We’re trying to stick it out, but it’s getting tiresome."

Keeping in good humor, Al Nolo, also of Hazlet, said "I’m going to dry dock that fishing boat at my house. We feel like we own it now."

Vince DiFortuna, another Hazlet resident who frequents the New York Fast Ferry service out of Keyport said he was tempted by the frequency of Belford’s rides, because there are only two departures in Keyport and one is a little too early and the other a little too late sometimes.

"I’ll try to stick it out here," said DiFortuna, "but the frequency is definitely a plus and so are the boats, from what I can see. New York Fast Ferry people are very nice, but those things do count."

As further compensation for inconvenience and to promote the new boat, Koenig said there will be special fares for the first few days of operation, but he would not specify what they will be.

There will also be special fares for people who stuck by the company and rode the fishing boat into New York City for months while waiting for the ferry to arrive, Koenig said. These special fares have not been released either.

The opening of the Belford ferry and the steep competition of other ferry services into the city will make getting ridership back to what it was before the fishing boat was used more difficult, Koenig said.

"I think Keyport is the best site geographically," Koenig said. It is the easiest to get to for most of the people around the area, Koenig said.

Graham said he was hoping for the success of the ferry. While the old ferry was in Keyport it brought new people, had a positive effect of property values and was an overall good thing for Keyport, Graham said.

"I think business will pick right back up," Graham said.