In addition to providing fast, efficient, and enjoyable public transportation under normal circumstances, ferries have consistently proven to be the most resilient mode of transit during and after emergencies. Lacking reliance on either a fixed route or the electrical grid, ferries have historically been deployed for speedy evacuations from no-notice emergency situations. Moreover, ferries are typically the first mode of transportation to resume service during prolonged transit outages, relieving New Yorkers -- particularly in communities lacking bus and subway access -- from an extended transit paralysis.
In spite of ferries' utility in emergency management, they are presently underutilized in New York's waterways. This paper is a call to action to policymakers and city officials to redefine ferries as critical emergency management assets. In doing so, the City will not only be equipped for a robust, interconnected ferry transit network, but it will also be prepared to facilitate effective waterborne evacuation and transit recovery. This paper makes eight key recommendations for maximizing the role of ferries in citywide emergency preparedness:
1. Increase capacity for waterborne evacuation by expanding inter-borough ferry service.
2. Provide ferry crews with emergency personnel identification.
3. Prioritize reimbursements to ferry operators when allocating federal and state emergency relief funds.
4. Fully integrate ferries with mass transit to facilitate seamless regional mobility.
5. Coordinate all regional ferry infrastructures -- including all boats and landings -- as one unified system of emergency management.
6. Develop coastal design standards to equip New York's shoreline for emergency response.
7. Establish a Department of the Waterfront -- a new city agency -- and house a Waterfront Emergency Management division within it to coordinate long-term planning and preparedness efforts.
8. Considering ferries as essential emergency management assets, apply for government emergency preparedness and recovery grants for coastal retrofitting and additional tie-up sites.