Welcome Aboard: Commuting on the Hoboken Ferry

For almost 90 years, ferries would remain the only way to traverse the Hudson.

Commuters board the Hoboken Ferry, 1963.
Commuters board the Hoboken Ferry, 1963.
Photo by Charles Pratt "Hoboken Ferry" International Center of Photography, Gift of Julie Pratt, 1996

In 1822, the Hoboken Steamboat Ferry Company dispatched its first boat across the Hudson River to Manhattan. For almost 90 years, ferries would remain the only way to traverse the Hudson. That changed in 1908, when the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad (today’s PATH train) went into service. Two years later, the North River Tunnels (used by today’s Amtrak and NJ Transit) opened for train traffic.

The advent of the railroad crossings did not immediately doom the ferries. In his book Over and Back: The History of Ferryboats in New York Harbor, Brian J. Cudahy reported that five Hudson River railroad ferry operators carried more than 91 million passengers in 1925. In Hoboken, ferry riders could connect with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad for trains to suburban Jersey towns like Montclair and onward to western Jersey and ultimately Buffalo, New York.

Automobile travel proved to be tougher competition. With the opening of the Holland Tunnel in 1927, the George Washington Bridge in 1931, and the Lincoln Tunnel in 1937, the ferry business started its inevitable decline. By 1955, ferry traffic shrank to 21 million passengers. Still, there were plenty of diehards—mostly men in business suits—boarding the Hoboken Ferry, pictured, in 1963 after a long day’s toil in Manhattan.

The Hoboken Ferry operated without fail for 145 years. When it closed on November 22, 1967, it was the last steam ferryboat operating on the Hudson River. Ferry service from Hoboken to New York resumed in 1989, and today service is available between the Hoboken Terminal and 14th Street.

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