Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 6:00 AM Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 7:42 AM
By Stephanie Slepian/Staten Island Advance Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Don't worry about missing your bus connection if the ferry into St. George is running late -- the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has increased its dispatcher presence on the ramps to advise customers about the status of their service, the Advance has learned.
The lack of coordination between the ferry and the buses is often the subject of testimony at public hearings. It's also an issue elected officials have pressed the MTA to correct.
They've finally heeded the call.
Dispatchers have been added to the MTA bus ramps, its tower at the ferry terminal and the skyline ramp, and dispatchers on each ramp are in continuous communication with the tower during rush hour, according to spokeswoman Deirdre Parker.
Additionally, ramp dispatchers are wearing orange vests to make them more visible to commuters.
"I am quite amazed," said Nicholas Zvegintov, chairman of the Staten Island Ferry Riders Committee. "I do believe the MTA is finally listening to our complaints." At a recent MTA public bus meeting, Zvegintov pointed out the lack of coordination to John Kivlehan, acting executive vice president for regional bus operations. Kivlehan acknowledged the problem and discussed the measures being put in place.
An MTA spokesman then followed up with Zvegintov by e-mail.
"In short, we do have a policy to hold the buses at the St. George ferry terminal when the ferry is delayed," read the e-mail sent to Zvegintov on behalf of Kivlehan. "However, if the ferry delay is extended, we may release the bus in order to prevent extensive service delays and bunching of buses for customers further along the route.
"In making this decision, we take into consideration the time of day and frequency of service, including how soon another bus will be available for connecting ferry passengers. As for monitoring ferry service, we have video on the ferry port and can monitor from the tower.
"We have also increased dispatcher coverage on the ramps and in the tower to monitor service and to advise customers about the status of their buses. In addition, management is monitoring the area to see how these measures are working for our customers."
State Sen. Diane Savino praised the measures.
"I want to thank the MTA and ferry operations for working to establish better coordination between the ferry and local buses," said Ms. Savino, who recently contacted MTA chairman Joseph Lhota and New York Transit Authority head Thomas F. Prendergast on behalf of the Ferry Riders Committee. She is expected to have a formal meeting with Lhota this month.
In two surveys of commuters conducted by her office, the failure of buses to wait for delayed ferries was a constant complaint.
"As indicated in the reports my office published in 2009 and 2011, this is major issue for the ridership," she said. "Any attempt to lessen the wait time for commuters will be welcomed."
Allen Cappelli, the borough's MTA representative, said he has often "implored" the agency to better its efforts to ensure buses are waiting for passengers when the ferries dock late.
"Sometimes if you make a fuss, the agencies will respond," he said. "That's why I make a fuss."