News / Canada

With New York launching public transit ferries, could Canadian commuters take to the water?

More than 200 years since the first ferries launched in New York, the city is rediscovering waterways as a way to get around. It's the circle of transit life.

Toronto runs ferry service to its islands, but it can hardly be considered a commuter service, save for the 700 or so island residents.

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Toronto runs ferry service to its islands, but it can hardly be considered a commuter service, save for the 700 or so island residents.

New York City’s newest public transit mode is also its oldest, and it’s making a splash.

After launching last month, the updated NYC Ferry was more popular than expected, with long lines of passengers taking trips on the river for the same fare as the subway.

It’s been 200 years since New Yorkers first took to the water, making Brooklyn the proto-suburb and creating a commuting culture.

Over the years, the modes have changed but the goal remains the same.

Is it time to return to the water? 

Todd Litman, director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, said cities with rivers running through could make ferries work, although the business case could be tough where rivers are frozen half the year.

He suggests the boats include cafes and shops to appeal to those wanting more comfort on their commute.

“If we want to attract people out of their cars, we need to think in terms of service quality,” he said.

For those who like to travel alone, Calgary entrepreneur Ravi Thaker launched the Paddle Station for kayakers this month.

Thaker’s business helps people get down the Bow River and includes a bag of necessary supplies with each docking point pick-up.

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