In 2019, New York City will temporarily close the L train subway – a crucial line moving commuters between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The city hopes to alleviate the inevitable commuting nightmare with alternative bus routes and even rentable electric bicycles. However, a new electric ferry service combined with a complete electric vehicle transportation suite could help take the edge off commuters’ struggles.
SW/TCH E-Mobility (presumably pronounced “switch”) is a new electric transportation company based around multiple modes of EV commuting. The company is planning to offer NYC’s first electric-powered ferry combined with a seamlessly integrated e-commuting fleet onshore.
NYC’s first electric ferry
Their flagship e-ferry will be an innovative 150-passenger battery-powered ferry used to connect Williamsburg with the East side of Manhattan. The electric ferry will give SW/TCH members a way to beat the L-train shutdown while enjoying a comfortable, stylish, and emission free commute across the East River.
Development and construction of the electric ferry is currently underway. The team says that commuters can track its progress on SW/TCH’s Instagram feed.
The electric ferry, and all electric boats in general, feature a much quieter ride due to the lack of a standard diesel or gasoline engine found on most ferries. In addition to a more peaceful ride, the electric ferry will also include a large bar, coffee shop-style seating and outdoor decks, as well as membership perks such as locally crafted coffee and daily specials onboard.
According to SW/TCH founder Pace Ralli:
“Our mission is to lower the barriers to New Yorker’s using electric-powered modes of transit, helping us progress towards zero emissions urban mobility. We are starting small, and where it’s needed most – with a limited membership beta between Williamsburg/Greenpoint and Manhattan when the L-train shuts down in 2019. We will pick you up at your apartment or at the Bedford Ave subway station to bring you to the ferry dock, and we’ll be waiting for you on the other side of the river to get you to your final destination in Manhattan – or vice versa.”
SW/TCH membership plans provide their members with access to a fleet of e-commuting options through its app, including electric van and mini-shuttles for last mile drop-off from the ferry dock, as well as electric mopeds, e-bikes, e-scooters and e-skateboards that members can borrow for the day.
Based on marketing materials, it appears the company will work with existing light electric vehicle sharing companies in New York, such as Revel electric moped sharing. Those companies will operate the light electric vehicle sharing programs, with SW/TCH members benefiting from the services.
However, SW/TCH plans to maintain their own fleets of e-bikes, e-scooters and e-skateboards that they offer to members. In a sense, that would function similarly to Bird Delivery, where an electric scooter shows up at your door in the morning, allowing you to start your commute hassle-free.
For a monthly fee of $150, members get a base quantity of ride credits that can be used on all forms of SW/TCH transportation. If a member uses all of his or her credits before the end of the month and continues to use the SW/TCH e-mobility fleet, the account will be charged “pay as you go” for any additional credits used.
As Ralli describes:
“How we want to move around varies constantly, depending on weather, time of day, our schedule or even just our mood. SW/TCH will allow members to access to any form of e-transport they prefer that day, somewhat similar to the ClassPass model. The only thing we can’t offer yet is a personal drone over the river to your office rooftop. But who knows? Maybe one day.”
SW/TCH is partnering with local businesses that it feels are aligned with the mission of switching to zero-emission commuting, whichever form that takes.
For the electric ferry, SW/TCH has partnered with Clean Marine Energy (“CME”), an impact-investing group focused on lowering emissions from the marine shipping industry through cleaner fuels and vessel electrification.
The electric ferry is planned to launch in 2019 and will be privately run by an existing ferry operating partner.
I like this idea and believe it’s a great way to leverage the growing possibilities of shorter range electric boats.
The combination of electric commuting services on light electric vehicles is also quite promising. If I lived in Brooklyn and wanted to get to work in Manhattan, or vice versa, the option to do it completely emission-free with door-to-door service sounds great.
But a big part of SW/TCH’s operations relies on building and managing the proper partnerships to offer those services. I think what will make or break this plan is the ability to create those partnerships. Time will tell, and I hope that SW/TCH can succeed.
Also, if this is meant to replace the L train for over a year, I hope they are building more than one of them.
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