NEW YORK – The Staten Island Ferry (search) is a New York City icon.
The 300-foot-long bright orange vessels move about 70,000 people a day for free between Staten Island and lower Manhattan. Even the opening of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge connecting Staten Island with Brooklyn in 1964 did not reduce the ferry's popularity with commuters.
While it is meant to be a practical way of transporting people, the 5.2-mile, 25-minute trip is also known for its scenic potential -- it passes by the Statue of Liberty (search) and Ellis Island (search). It's the only non-automotive way off Staten Island.
People have been crossing over water between Manhattan and Staten Island since 1713; the first steamboat came into service in 1817. A railroad company ran the ferry from 1884 until 1905, when it was taken over by city government.
The ferry is currently run by the city Department of Transportation, which maintains a fleet of seven vessels including the Andrew J. Barberi, the ferry that crashed Wednesday afternoon. At least 10 people died.
On weekdays, five boats are in rotation, making 104 daily trips. On weekends, three boats make 64 trips each day. There are more than 33,000 trips every year.
The ferry hasn't always been free. In 1897, the price was five cents and stayed there for almost 80 years. It went up to 10 cents in 1972, to 25 cents in 1975, and 50 cents in 1990. On July 4, 1997, passengers began riding for free.
The Andrew J. Barberi was commissioned in 1981, named for a high school football coach. Just over 300 feet long and 70 feet wide, it can carry 6,000 passengers.
On Sept. 19, 1997, a car plunged off the Andrew J. Barberi as it was docking in Staten Island, causing minor injuries to the driver and a deckhand who was knocked overboard by the car.