10. Fare’s Fair – The Cost of a Ferry Ride in the 19th Century

10_Fulton Ferry TicketA ticket for inaugural ride of the Fulton Ferry aboard the Nassau in 1814. Credit: Brooklyn/Queens Waterfront

In 1814, an inaugural ride on the Fulton Ferry cost a mere four cents, but 19th century fares weren’t necessarily a bargain. In 1824, Robert Fulton lost his monopoly on ferry services in New York State, which sparked flurry of startup companies, and a half-century of fierce competition. Operators would sometimes extort customers and overload boats to maximize profits from each ferry ride.

The Union Ferry Company, established in 1839, steadily brought down fares until they were fixed at a penny. Once the company succeeded in driving small competitors out of the market, it used its monopology to double fares, angering its ridership. Today, law and order reigns on the waterfront. With Citywide Ferry Service, the cost of a ride will remain affordable, and New Yorkers will be able to travel anywhere in the system for $2.75.

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