Free is nice, yet I'm concerned. Maybe I'm being too cynical; I just can't help but think this is going to come back to haunt us somehow. It is a remarkable coincidence that the fare elimination has occurred during an mayoral election year and was prompted by a mayor who owes his office to Staten Island. This is a mayor who's last campaign was run on the slogan, "Sure you can secede...well, you can try." It strikes me that we should be wary. Say it's a couple of months down the line, you just know we're going to make some sort of request of the city, something like:
"Excuse us, but we couldn't help noticing that there are all these people blocking the exit doors at the Whitehall Terminal, making it quite difficult for us to get off the boat. These people insist on boarding through the exit doors and basically making a nuisance of themselves."
The city would say, "And?"
"Perhaps," we would continue, "there's a chance that you might assign some sort of personnel for crowd control to keep the exits clear?"
The city might mull this over for a moment, stroking it's chin as it considers this request. Then suddenly the city would remember, "Hey, wait a second, didn't we just remove the fare from the ferry?"
"Why, yes you did," we'd respond.
"And you're already bugging us for something else? Boy, are you ungrateful! Get out of here!"
Naturally, we'd back off a bit. We certainly don't want to seem ungrateful. Things will go along much the same, when one of us will make a sudden realization:
"You know, those night boats are pretty horrid. Look at it; the Noble is being cannibalized to keep the Austin running. Now running her over-night is one thing but the Austin is being used during the weekend, too. In broad daylight where people can see it! Hundreds of people are crammed into this pint-sized vessel. Tourists from around the world have this nautical non-entity foisted upon them and they go back home thinking 'this is the world-famous SI Ferry? Ha, it is to laugh!'. And the folding-tables-as-snack-bar concept
is pretty low rent to boot."
"What's your point?" the city will ask.
"We'd also like to point out that those Kennedy class boats aren't getting any younger either," we'd add. "They break down a lot. And when the Newhouse boats malfunction, we have to fly in Germans to fix them."
And the city would be trying to hurry us along. "Yes, yes, get on with it."
"We were thinking, you know the other commuters and us, and we were thinking we might be needing some new boats. Something world-class. Something sea-worthy and worthy of Staten Island. Think we can do that?"
The city will smirk, "What are we, made of money? You don't pay anything for it and now you what to upgrade? Sheesh! You getting it for free!"
Or, say, someone might mention to the city about the Whitehall terminal.
"What about it?" snarls the city.
"We've been using this 'temporary' terminal for half a decade or so, and, frankly, it's no treat. The old terminal wasn't much, but it had pizza and restaurants and really good soft ice cream and you could get a haircut and a drink. How about that new terminal you've been talking about?"
"Oh, yeah, we'll get right on that. And if you're not satisfied by the end of the millennium, we'll refund the price of your fare! Hahahahahahahaha!"
The city will no doubt grow weak from laughing so much.
And the list would go on: "The St. George terminal is no great shakes, either." "You think we could get more than one Whitehall slip operating during rush hour?" "How about the North Shore Railroad?" "By the way, we can't help but notice that the landfill is still open."
The city will simply roar, "Gimme, gimme, gimme! Is that all you can do? You got your Jersey bridge discounts, you got your EZ pass discounts, you got your free ferry. Now knock it off before we slap you clowns with alternate side of the street parking."
So, as you hurry to make your boat, fishing in your pockets for the quarters you can now use on the occasional working pay phone in the terminal, remember, you get what you pay for.