Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley will enter contract negotiations to acquire the Port Liberte Ferry Terminal, with an ordinance to introduced at next week’s council meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The ordinance would potentially allow the city to take an active role in subsidizing rates, increasing ridership, and significantly expanding access to the terminal for residents in the Greenville and West Side neighborhoods by leveraging the highly successful Via Jersey City.
“Over the last several years, Jersey City has engaged in expanding transportation options for our residents, and this is another step in that direction. We have been successful with both our Citi Bike and Via initiatives,” Fulop said in a statement.
“By lowering costs and creating a more accessible terminal, we can encourage more of our local commuters to use the Port Liberte ferry to New York City.”
Currently, due to lacking access and affordability, the terminal is almost entirely limited to residents within the Port Liberte complex and, therefore, experiences low ridership and minimal weekday boat service.
New York Waterway’s ferry out of Port Liberte is expected to resume service this summer and their current contract runs through 2023.
“Losing the Port Liberte terminal during the height of the pandemic has resulted in our residents taking the light rail to a bus or PATH train. For many families, the longer commute is expensive and time-consuming, which, in turn, impedes residents in our lower-income areas from jobs and educational opportunities that could really enhance their quality of life,” added Ridley.
“This ferry terminal will be a game-changer for so many of our residents. It opens the doors to numerous opportunities for many people on the southern end of the city. I’m excited to see more people take advantage of it.”
When ferry service stopped in 2020, Jersey City launched an on-demand microtransit service in partnership with Via to provide a more affordable transportation option that closes transit gaps.
Since the launch, Via’s data shows the City’s low-income and diverse populations have benefited the most. Via currently completes 13,000 trips per week.
The service has been successful in providing trips to residents in the Greenville neighborhood, with the Journal Square transportation hub being the most popular destination for commuters to then take the PATH train across the Hudson River.
“With this ordinance, the city will be able to more directly impact the growth and success of the ferry service at Port Liberte. The city’s role would be to ensure a consistent flow of ridership by making the ferry terminal more accessible and the fares more affordable, specifically for low-income residents,” Director of the Department of Infrastructure Director Barkha Patel said in a statement.
“Additionally, as the owner of the terminal, the city will hold the ferry operator to the highest standards to ensure service is reliable, efficient, and best serving the needs of our residents.”
The Jersey City Council will convene for their caucus on Monday, June 13th at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 280 Grove St., and a copy of the ordinance was not yet available.
NY Waterway spokesman Wiley Norvell says the company has run the Port Liberte ferry service since 1996 and looks forward to working with the administration on this endeavor.
“NY Waterway has proudly run the Port Liberte ferry service since 1996, and we look forward to resuming ferries this summer. We appreciate the mayor’s efforts and are excited to work together to bring more transportation options to the area’s commuters.”
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said the city would assume ownership and responsibility for $1 in this scenario.
“The reality is that the city’s engagement here is going to be a paradigm shift as the previous owners didn’t have the ferry operations as a core focus of their business and the city will,” she said
“So, we approached the owner and expressed our desire to enter this mode of transportation, and we would propose a positive outcome for all with a transfer of ownership and responsibility so that operations are more aligned with each organization’s focus.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from New York Waterway spokesman Wiley Norvell and then city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione.