Despite its name, New York Waterway is as much a bus company as it is a ferry company. While best known for its ferry boats that ply back and forth between Manhattan and New Jersey, NY Waterway operates a network of feeder buses on either side of the Hudson.
Now, the ferry company is soliciting rider feedback on a proposal to add a bus service at its terminal in Belford, NJ. The fare would be $3.50, in addition to ferry fares of about $21. Belford is on the south shore of the Raritan Bay, about a 45 minute ferry ride to Lower Manhattan or Downtown Jersey City.
The Raritan Bayshore ferry market is competitive. NY Waterway’s rival Seastreak also operates express ferries from nearby Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, as well as summer service to Sandy Hook. The bus service could be a way to make the Belford ferry more attractive than Seastreak.
Ferries also compete against NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line. The proposed bus service is undoubtedly a move to keep the ferry more convenient than the train. It would pick from from NJ Transit train stations between Spring Lake and Middletown. NJ Transit recently inaugurated direct rush hour trains from Bay Head to New York Penn Station, threatening the ferry companies’ ridership. Previously, there were no through trains and trips from beach towns to New York required a transfer.
Despite express trains, a combined ferry and bus ride would still be the faster option. A ride from Manhattan to Middletown requires about 1 hour 10 minutes at rush hour, longer from Lower Manhattan. A 45 minute bus ride, plus a 10 minute bus ride and 5 minute for a transfer would still be faster.
The proposed ferry bus would be a significant improvement for commuting options in towns between Middletown and Spring Lake. But just remember, it’s just a proposal, and not a sure thing yet.