Key transportation projects for Staten Island in 2021

As Staten Islanders inch closer to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead at what’s to come in 2021.

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic impacting nearly every aspect of life over the past nine months, crucial transportation projects, once expected to be completed in 2020, have been delayed, with the implementation of some of the associated programs and services pushed into 2021, while others remain unknown.

Among these major transportation initiatives are the launch of Staten Island’s new fast ferry service, the rollout of the borough’s new Beryl bike share program, and the delivery and commissioning of the new Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis Staten Island Ferry boat.

Here’s a look at where those projects currently stand and what Staten Islanders can expect from them in the coming year.

FAST FERRY

Staten Island’s new fast ferry service, located at the foot of Wall Street, between the base of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark and Empire Outlets in St. George, is expected to launch in summer 2021.

The new route was initially slated to start before the end of 2020 but was delayed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, contractors began mobilizing at the future site of the new fast ferry service, erecting a chainlink fence around the perimeter and setting up construction equipment and materials.

In the coming months, workers will construct the landing for the new NYC Ferry route, comprised of floating barges attached to piles, with a gangway connecting them to shore, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

Construction is expected to have a minimal impact on both pedestrian and roadway traffic, with the majority of the materials expected to be delivered to the site by barge.

Staten Island’s fast ferry route is designed to provide residents quicker, more convenient access to Manhattan’s West Side than is currently available via MTA express buses or a two-legged commute on the Staten Island Ferry and MTA subway system.

Once operational, the NYC Ferry will depart from St. George every 25 to 30 minutes during peak commuting hours. Off-peak frequencies will vary by season, like all other NYC Ferry routes.

The route will make two stops, one in Battery Park City, which will take approximately 18 minutes to reach, and one in Midtown West, which will take approximately 35 minutes to reach.

Commuters who utilize the new fast ferry service are expected to save approximately 20 minutes on their trip in each direction, according to the EDC.

Currently, the NYC Ferry fare is set at $2.75, the same as the MTA’s base fare for buses and subways.

Tickets will be available for purchase via a vending machine at the landing or using the NYC Ferry mobile app.

BERYL BIKE SHARE

Staten Island’s new dockless bike-share program, operated by Beryl, is expected to launch in March 2021 in parts of the borough’s North and East shores.

The new bike-share program was initially slated to start during spring 2020 but was delayed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The program’s initial rollout will include a combination of 350 standard and electric pedal-assist bikes, though the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Beryl have yet to determine how many of each type will be deployed.

Beryl is currently in the process of installing 162 Beryl Bays — clearly marked bike parking zones strategically placed throughout the borough — to minimize the disruption caused by having bikes scattered across city sidewalks.

Parking a bike outside a Beryl Bay location will result in a $3 fee while parking a bike outside the program’s service area will result in a $25 fee.

Locations for the Beryl Bays were determined by considering adjacent land use, sidewalk width, proximity to street furniture, accessibility, and community input.

Community Board 1, which encompasses the majority of the program’s initial service area, will have 128 Beryl Bay locations, including Forest Avenue and Bard Avenue; Victory Boulevard and Clove Road; Jewett Avenue and Forest Avenue; Woolley Avenue and Watchogue Road, and many more.

Community Board 2, which encompasses a small portion of the program’s initial service area on the borough’s East Shore, will have 34 Beryl Bay locations, including Lily Pond Road and McClean Avenue; Sand Lane and West Fingerboard Road; Old Town Road and North Railroad Avenue; Hylan Boulevard and Greeley Avenue, and many more.

Beryl and the DOT plan to eventually expand the program to cover the rest of the borough, though they have yet to provide a timeline for the expansion.

However, in August, Borough President James Oddo told the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com that the city plans to expand the program to Mid-Island and the South Shore in 2022, increasing the number of available vehicles to 700, including 500 e-bikes.

The Beryl bikes are designed with a lightweight frame and comfortable seat that’s adjustable for riders spanning heights of 4′11″ to 6′5″. Each bike has three gears, allowing riders to adjust based on the hilliness of the terrain.

Contactless technology installed in the unlock pad allows riders to simply hold their phone above the bike to unlock and ride.

Riders can choose from three different pricing options: Pay as You Ride, Day Pass, or Minutes Bundle.

The Pay as You Ride option costs $1 to unlock pedal bikes and $1.50 to unlock e-bikes. After the unlocking fee, it costs 15 cents for each minute on pedal bikes and 25 cents for each minute on e-bikes.

The Day Pass option costs $12 for unlimited rides within a 24-hour window.

The Minutes Bundle option offers riders discounted rates the more minutes they purchase. Riders can pay $15 for 100 minutes, $28 for 200 minutes, $48 for 400 minutes or $60 for 600 minutes.

STAFF SGT. MICHAEL OLLIS FERRY

It’s unclear whether we’ll see the new Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis ferryboat in 2021, with the DOT unable to provide an update on the vessel’s anticipated delivery date.

The Ollis boat was initially scheduled to arrive in the New York Harbor in fall 2019, with the vessel originally set to be commissioned and put in service in early 2020.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.

The Florida shipyard, operated by the Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc., where the three newest Staten Island Ferry vessels are under construction, was badly damaged by Hurricane Michael in October 2018, delaying the arrival of the new boats, with the Ollis boat’s delivery date pushed back to August 2020.

In July, just one month before the new boat was scheduled to arrive, the DOT announced that it had been delayed again by the coronavirus pandemic, though the department failed to provide the Advance with an updated timeline.

“Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, the delivery date for the Ollis ship has been impacted,” the DOT told the Advance. “Further details on the delivery dates are forthcoming.”

The DOT did not respond to a recent request for further details on the anticipated delivery date.

The Ollis is the first of three new ferryboats that will replace the John F. Kennedy, Andrew J. Barberi, and the Samuel I. Newhouse boats.

The Ollis boat is named after the late Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a New Dorp native who died at age 24 while saving a Polish soldier in Afghanistan.

The third new boat remains nameless at this time.

The new storm-resilient vessels will be more capable of operating in a wide range of weather conditions and locations — and can also be used in emergency evacuations.

The ships were modeled after the John F. Kennedy boat, popular for its outdoor promenades and extended foredecks.

(Staten Island Advance)

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