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Press Release

NYCEDC Announces New NYC Ferry Contract with Hornblower Group

Aug 08 2023
NYC Ferry

Builds off Mayor Adams’ NYC Ferry Forward Plan to Build a More Equitable, Accessible, and Financially Sustainable Ferry System

New Operating Agreement Will Deliver Improved Ridership Experiences, Expanded Accessibility and Tech Features, Increased Transparency and Oversight of the NYC Ferry System, and Further Investment of NYC Ferry as a Maritime Career Pipeline

NEW YORK, NY—Today, a year since the announcement of Mayor Eric Adams’ “NYC Ferry Forward” vision for a more equitable, accessible, and fiscally sustainable citywide ferry system, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced the procurement of a new NYC Ferry operating contract with Hornblower Group. Selecting an operator through a competitive process and negotiating a new contract is a key component of the NYC Ferry Forward plan.

Over the last year, the NYC Ferry Forward plan has delivered impressive results:

  • Record breaking ridership, exceeding pre-pandemic levels with farebox revenue up more than $6 million;
  • Per passenger subsidy is down dramatically and on track to be reduced by nearly 30% by 2025;
  • Financial transparency into the system has been transformed with the publication of NYC Ferry ridership, financial, and subsidy information;
  • Equitable ferry access has improved through the launch of the NYC Ferry Discount ticket program, the launch of half-price tickets for Harbor School students;
  • Pilot routes including the Rockaway Rocket, Rockaway Reserve, and South Brooklyn Faster Connections, which deliver more transit options to riders, while reducing costs to the system.

Building on this track record, and after a competitive procurement process, NYCEDC selected Hornblower Group, one of the leading global maritime transportation and ferry companies, due to its robust proposal that will further NYC Ferry’s position as the modern transportation system that riders want. This contract includes: major business improvements, including a framework to partner with a corporate name sponsor to re-brand the system and further drive down the subsidy, upgraded ridership experiences like free onboard Wi-Fi, and behind-the-scenes system upgrades to increase transparency and efficiency. The new contract will have an initial five-year term with two three-year expansion options, furthering the system to remain a permanent fixture of the New York City landscape.

Mayor Eric Adams announces NYC Ferry Forward

“We are a five-borough administration, and we want all New Yorkers to get where they want to go as efficiently as possible, especially when using transportation like our ferry system,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Last year, we announced the ‘Ferry Forward’ plan to make our ferry system more equitable, accessible, and financially sustainable. And now, we’re delivering on our commitment with upgrades like free onboard WiFi, better real-time updates for passengers, expanded in-app language services, and greater accessibility. Without question, this contract marks a new chapter in our ferry system.”

“From day one, the goal for the NYC Ferry system was to provide New Yorkers with a reliable, safe service and to create a new form of public transit that is equitable, accessible and financially sustainable,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development & Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “Today's announcement is one more step towards this goal. Under the Mayor's leadership and in close collaboration with Hornblower, I look forward to breaking more ridership records and further strengthening the overall ferry system in the months and years to come.” 

“Thanks to Mayor Adams’ leadership and the Ferry Forward Plan, ridership is at an all-time high while access and affordability have been enhanced,” said NYCEDC President & CEO Andrew Kimball. “By partnering with Hornblower, we will bring NYC Ferry to its next phase with even more onboard amenities, while continuing to bring down costs and increase revenue.” 

Key highlights from the new agreement include:

Building a More Financially Sustainable Ferry System 

  • Decreases cost to the City through features that boost ridership and expand NYCEDC’s access to NYC Ferry revenue streams such as farebox revenue, advertising and concessions. 
  • Improves NYCEDC oversight with greater transparency and control on operations and cost centers. 
  • Allows NYC Ferry to pursue engine upgrades that will result in up to 10 percent fuel savings for more than half the fleet.

Upgraded Ridership Experience 

  • Free Wi-Fi onboard all NYC ferries. 
  • Enhanced real-time passenger information including landing wait time estimates and on-board seat and bike spot availability. 
  • Expanded access to onboard and land-side schedule and stop information. 

Increasing Equity, Strengthening Communities, and Furthering the NYC Maritime Career Pipeline 

  • Furthers NYC Ferry as a maritime career pipeline for New York City students through partnerships with the Department of Education, CUNY, and SUNY schools with a minimum of 10 internships per year and a variety of other career engagement opportunities. 
  • Expands community engagement programs, where Hornblower Group will engage over 10,000 people per year through events and other programs, host at least 10 volunteer events annually in the communities NYC Ferry serves and hire a full time NYCHA outreach coordinator to grow diverse ridership and establish NYC Ferry as an integral part of waterfront communities. 
  • And in a historically non-diverse industry, Hornblower Group commits to spend at least 15 percent of its total compensation under this agreement with M/WBE firms. Hornblower Group’s commitment to this goal is evidenced through their efforts to help numerous vendors become certified in the M/WBE program throughout the request for proposal (RFP) process.

Other highlights of Hornblower Group’s tech-forward and feature-rich approach will unlock important accessibility and behind-the-scenes upgrades that improve reliability across the system. Riders will see important accessibility upgrades, like schedule and stop information, in multiple formats and languages, and a new feature allowing riders to call or text to get real-time departure schedules. Under this next contract, riders with visual or hearing disabilities, or those without access to smart phones, will have the same easy access to schedules as those who use the NYC Ferry app. Additionally, Hornblower Group will implement a maintenance program that uses machine-learning to predict and optimize vessel maintenance to keep the NYC Ferry fleet in first-class, service-ready condition.

"I am excited to see that NYCEDC has selected a vendor that has a long-standing relationship and track record with the city,” said Councilmember Amanda Farías. “This is a great way to continue to provide an accessible and affordable commute option for millions of New Yorkers. This announcement also brings with it increased sustainability, greater career opportunities, expanded opportunity for M/WBE’s, all while also continuing to lower subsidies. The NYC Ferry system has opened up pathways for outer-borough communities like mine in Soundview that had never been crossed before. I look forward to seeing ridership continue to grow and more New Yorkers taking advantage of our city’s newest transit system.”

“We are proud to be selected by NYCEDC and the City of New York as we continue our partnership as the operator of NYC Ferry; providing millions of New Yorkers with a convenient, accessible, and affordable commuting option that connects both traditionally underserved transit deserts and local economic hubs across all five boroughs,” said Kevin Rabbitt, Chief Executive Officer, Hornblower Group. “As the founding operator of NYC Ferry in 2017, we look forward to building upon the achievements of the system’s record-setting success in a new phase, including implementing Mayor Adams’ Ferry Forward vision to create a more equitable and financially sustainable system. We proposed and look forward to executing an innovative long-term strategy for NYC Ferry that drives ridership among underserved communities, reduces operational costs, and maximizes value to city taxpayers. On behalf of Hornblower Group and the hundreds of devoted and exceptional NYC Ferry crewmembers, we thank NYCEDC and the City of New York for their ongoing collaboration and look forward to welcoming millions more riders onboard in the coming years.”

The NYC Ferry system provides about 7 million riders annually with safe, dependable, affordable, and accessible transit across the five boroughs. With six routes that touch every borough, 25 landings, and 38 vessels, the system spans 70 nautical miles and is now the largest passenger-only fleet in the nation, based on hours of service and fleet size. NYC Ferry has further proven to be among the country's most resilient transit networks with the third-fastest ridership recovery of the largest transit systems in the U.S. since the pandemic.

New York City Economic Development Corporation is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization that works for a vibrant, inclusive, and globally competitive economy for all New Yorkers. We take a comprehensive approach, through four main strategies: strengthen confidence in NYC as a great place to do business; grow innovative sectors with a focus on equity; build neighborhoods as places to live, learn, work, and play; and deliver sustainable infrastructure for communities and the city's future economy. To learn more about what we do, visit us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

About Hornblower Group 
Hornblower Group is a global leader in experiences and transportation. Hornblower Group’s corporate businesses are comprised of three premier experience divisions: American Queen Voyages, its overnight cruising division; City Experiences, its land, and water-based experiences as well as ferry and transportation services; and Journey Beyond, Australia’s leading experiential travel group. Spanning a 100-year history, Hornblower Group’s portfolio of international offerings includes water-based experiences (dining and sightseeing cruises), land-based experiences (walking tours, food tours and excursions), overnight experiences (cruises and railways) and ferry and transportation services. Today, Hornblower Group’s global portfolio covers 114 countries and territories, 125 U.S. cities, and serves more than 22 million guests annually.