Guest: Scrap the new ferry route before it starts

The North Ferry line down Wiggins Street in Greenport. (Credit: Ambrose Clancy, file)
The North Ferry line down Wiggins Street in Greenport. (Credit: Ambrose Clancy, file)

As the North Ferry traffic control officer on summer weekends for 17 years, from 1990 to 2006, I agree with the comment Jim Kalin made on that the proposed new ferry line route will not work and the problems of line-cutting pointed out in the story will just move to 4th Street and Wiggins Street — out of sight of the ferry crews. 

A “two-way trial” of a Wiggins Street re-routing was run during my tenure as traffic control officer, and it didn’t work then. It snarled Wiggins to the point where an ambulance could not make it down the street to an emergency one afternoon. The plan was abandoned and Wiggins was returned to one-way eastbound traffic.

The way I see it, the new plan will result in line-beating ferry traffic coming from Front Street onto 4th Street, and law-abiding ferry traffic headed east from 6th Street on Wiggins. The vehicles will meet at the corner of 4th Street and Wiggins, and the line-cutting and fights will start there.

Click on map to enlarge:

The proposed ferry route. (Credit: Suffolk Times illustration/Google Maps)
The proposed ferry route. (Credit: Suffolk Times illustration/Google Maps)

Without monitoring, the proposed ferry line will, at the busiest times, cross 4th Street at the LIRR tracks onto MTA property. This will block 4th Street to emergency vehicles and the movement of local traffic and Hampton Jitney buses, not to mention back up into the intersection at 4th Street and Wiggins.

The neighborhood will become a nightmare.

If the Wiggins Street and 3rd Street altercations and control of the ferry line from 6th Street are truly an issue, as reported in The Suffolk Times, the answer is to realign the existing ferry line through the village’s parking lot at Wiggins and 3rd Street. Jersey-barricade the ferry line short of 3rd Street and force the drivers to turn into the parking lot and continue on the existing serpentine route to the ferry. Wiggins remains one-way eastbound for local traffic and no one will be able to cut the line. The only drawback is the loss of parking spaces in the Village lot.

I learned through the paper that one of the issues is traffic backing down 3rd Street from the light at Front Street. This happens when several ferry boats let off one after the other. Years ago, the boats carried 12 to 13 cars and the most vehicles that could be dumped onto 3rd Street within a few stop lights would be 24 to 36. Today, with 25-car boats and when the traffi c load is all northbound from Shelter Island, 50 to 75 cars can be dumped onto 3rd Street in short order.

The answer to that is to re-time/sequence the stop light to allow more traffic to flow out of 3rd Street at those times, eliminate parking northbound on 3rd Street and make two turn lanes (East & West), all the way to the light, and/or require the ferry boats to adhere to a schedule — even when their traffi c load is all northbound.

Finally, the way to control the ferry line and the local vehicles traveling through the 3rd Street circle to the dock, bus, railroad station, museums and the MTA parking lot is to have a North Ferry traffic control officer on duty.

Direct the traffic and answer the confused drivers when they inevitably ask, “What do I do?!”

From the days of “Cap” Austin, to college kids directing traffic, to my 17 years of working the line, I can say that a live human being will always smooth the traffic and control the problems better than any signs, traffic cones or barrels. The time has come again for the North Ferry Company to step up to the plate and hire a qualifi ed adult to monitor the ferry line and the street. (And no, I am retired, and don’t want my old job back!) There are many qualifi ed volunteer fi refi ghters with fi re police experience on the North Fork and Shelter Island that could do the job. That’s where I learned my traffi c control offi cer skills, the fi re police.

As president of the Railroad Museum of Long Island on 4th Street in Greenport, I can say that I and the rest of the museum trustees oppose this new ferry line plan, with our chief concern being the safety of visitors to our museum, and the dangerous volume of traffi c passing directly in front of the building. Additionally, we oppose the relocation of the ferry line onto MTA property, as it is an historic landmark property, listed on the Federal Registries of Historic Places in 1989.

Don Fisher is a Southold resident, retired A/V technician and president of the Railroad Museum of Long Island in Greenport.fisher_head