Staten Island Ferry set to receive more funding through federal bill
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The city is set to receive more ferry money through a federal transit bill that would restructure how funding is allotted to the nation's public ferry systems.
The bill, known as Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or the FAST Act, aims to improve the nation's surface transit infrastructure and outlines federal transit funding over the course of the next five years. A provision in the act would restructure the current ferry funding formula to more favorably weigh car-less systems like the Staten Island Ferry.
Rep. Dan Donovan's office estimates the new formula would bring an additional $3.2 million in funding, annually, to the Staten Island Ferry for the next five years. After House and Senate negotiators agreed on the bill Wednesday, Donovan and his peers are confident that the bill will pass both houses when it comes to vote, which could be as early as the end of this week.
"Voters sent me to Washington to deliver results," said Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) in a statement. He had worked alongside Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to secure the funding.
"This was a long shot, but by working collaboratively with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we successfully increased funding for the Staten Island Ferry," Donovan continued. "I'm proud of this work, and I will continue to partner with whomever necessary to advance the interests of our community and our city."
Schumer, who was on the conference committee, said the bill helps Staten Island get its "fair share."
"I fought hard for the FAST Act because it helps Staten Island get its fair share of much-needed federal transportation funds. More federal funding for the Staten Island Ferry—the nation's largest ferry operation--- will help make sure our fleet is updated, reliable and efficient for commuters," said Schumer in a statement.
Federal funding for ferry transit relies on three factors: passengers, vehicle ridership and distance traveled. The current formula weighs vehicle ridership heaviest, making it harder for the city to acquire federal funding for the car-free Staten Island Ferry or the mayor's envisioned fast ferry network.
The revised formula weighs passenger and car ridership equally. Here's a look at the formulas:
Current, per law:
- 20 percent to eligible entities based on the ferry system's proportion of ferry passengers
- 45 percent to eligible entities based on the ferry system's proportion of vehicles
- 35 percent to eligible entities based on the ferry system's proportion of ferry route mileage
Revised, per final conference report, page 79:
- 35 percent to eligible entities based on the ferry system's proportion of ferry passengers
- 35 percent to eligible entities based on the ferry system's proportion of vehicles
- 30 percent to eligible entities based on the ferry system's proportion of ferry route mileage
Originally, only the Senate version of the bill included the revised formula when the legislation was introduced in October. A conference committee between the House and the Senate was created to work out differences, including ferry funding distribution.
In a statement issued Wednesday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said reaching the agreement was "challenging," but congratulated the committee members.
"This legislation is a vital investment in our country," Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) said in the statement. "A safe, efficient surface transportation network is fundamentally necessary to our quality of life and our economy, and this conference report provides long-term certainty for states and local governments, and good reforms and improvements to the programs that sustain our roads, bridges, transit, and passenger rail system. We knew that reaching an agreement on this measure would be challenging, but every member of the conference committee was certainly up to the task. We appreciate their hard work in this effort, and we look forward to moving this measure forward and getting it signed into law."