At the May 22 meeting of its board, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) allocated $632,000 to support the Downtown Connection, the free shuttle bus that ferries riders between Battery Park City and the South Street Seaport, which has been operated by the Downtown Alliance since 2003.
While the amount of financial support allocated by the BPCA for the Connection shuttle has remained fixed for at least six years, both the ridership and the scope of service have expanded in recent years. At Tuesday’s meeting, Authority president Shari Hyman noted, “ever since the Alliance changed operators last year ridership has been up. The bus now serves 640,000 community members and visitors annually, and they’ve extended service farther into the Seaport neighborhood, so it’s now a continuous loop of Lower Manhattan.” This was a reference to the 2016 addition of a new stop at 119 South Street (near the corner of Peck Slip), which brings the total of pick-up and drop-off points on the route to 38.
The new operator that Ms. Hyman referred to is Golden Touch Transportation, a company that specializes is shuttling pilots and flight attendants between New York’s three airports. This operator was recruited in 2016 to bring higher-quality buses and more experienced drivers to the service.
BPCA chairman Dennis Mehiel asked, “how much of the total cost do we pay?” This was a reference to the Downtown Alliance’s overall budget for the service.
Ms. Hyman responded, “approximately one-third.”
The Downtown Connection shuttle, which was launched by the Alliance in 2003 (and expanded to 37 stops in 2009) operates a fleet of seven buses from 10am to 8pm, on weekdays, with five buses on weekends. The service connects residential areas of Lower Manhattan with business and shopping districts. Roughly half of the stops made by Connection buses (a total of 18) are within the borders of Battery Park City, where 45 percent of all trips on the shuttle begin, and some 49 percent end.
In this context, the BPCA’s support for the Downtown Connection seems like a comparative bargain, in that a one-third subsidy supports half of all the stops made by the bus, and nearly half of all its ridership.
The mission of the Downtown Alliance is to enhance Lower Manhattan for businesses, residents and visitors. In addition to the Connection shuttle, the organization also provides local security and trash pickup, as well as operating the business improvement district, or BID, that covers the area south of Chambers Street.