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PATH Service Returns to WTC Site Sunday

Nov 21, 2003 1:51 pm US/Eastern http://1010wins.com

When the World Trade Center PATH station was destroyed two Septembers ago, many commuters began riding ferries across the Hudson River to lower Manhattan, a brief, breathtaking cruise.

But with the opening of a temporary WTC station on Sunday, people more concerned with saving time, money and hassle getting to and from work every day will resume riding the PATH's sunless tubes beneath the wind and waves.

On Friday morning, commuters who had ridden PATH trains from points west to the Exchange Place Station on Jersey City's Hudson waterfront lined up under a brilliant sun at the nearby New York Waterway ferry slip.

For some, it would be the last time they rode the long escalator up from the PATH station to catch the ferry to the World Financial Center in Manhattan. On Monday, they would opt instead to stay on the train for a mere three-minute ride to the nearby trade center station.

"The ferry takes 20 minutes," said Bob Patzko, 54, a tax accountant who had driven from home in Verona to the Harrison PATH station, before getting out to catch the ferry. "Plus, it's expensive: $92 a month. Next month I won't have to pay $92."

For Patzko and others, the PATH fare will remain $1.50 whether they ride across the river or get out at Exchange Place.

Patzko said he even anticipates some feelings of triumph over the terrorists when he arrives at the trade center PATH station on Monday, returning at last to his pre-Sept. 11 commute.

The reopening will be just as convenient for commuters from New York to New Jersey. Marina Pickman, 27, of Brooklyn, had just gotten off the ferry in Jersey City, and was headed into work as a financial analyst at Lehman Brothers' waterfront office. Pickman said she definitely will go back to riding the PATH, which is nearly a direct connection to her subway from Brooklyn.

"I don't have to walk 15 minutes to get on the ferry," Pickman said. "And it's less expensive."

The $323 million temporary station built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the former trade center site will be replaced by a $2 billion permanent transportation hub in 2006.

New York Waterway, which operates the Exchange Place ferry and others, roughly doubled its passenger volume in a matter of months after the terror attack destroyed the PATH station and limited bridge and tunnel traffic.

A company spokesman, Pat Smith, said ridership has slipped slightly to 60,000 daily trips currently, from a peak of about 65,000 in summer 1992, due to softening economic conditions. But Smith said the return of WTC PATH service is likely to mark the first conspicuous drop in ridership for New York Waterway since the company began operating in 1986.

Other services are also likely to lose commuters to the WTC PATH station, which handled 67,000 daily arrivals and departures pre-Sept. 11.

Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman, said some riders will choose PATH over New Jersey Transit trains and buses, while others will stop driving into New York.

A push by New York Waterway to keep its Exchange Place passengers was evident on the dock Friday morning, when young women handed out fliers offering 10 bonus trips with the purchase of a December monthly pass.

Smith, who could not provide a breakdown of ferry passenger volumes by route, said a leveling off or even decline is not necessarily a bad thing for the company, whose emergency expansion after the attack put it at a disadvantage.

"Yeah, it's going away, less people are going to take that ferry," Smith said of the Exchange Place-World Trade Center route. But, he added, "This is right-sizing. You plan for growth, you grow at the right pace. Sept. 11 was a heroic effort to get ferry service to meet demand."
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