Richmond Ferry Service Begins

Bay Area commuters welcome their newest option

A ferry leaving Richmond this morning for San Francisco. All pics Streetsblog/Rudick
A ferry leaving Richmond this morning for San Francisco. All pics Streetsblog/Rudick

Ferry service began today between 1453 Harbour Way Street in Richmond to the ferry building in downtown San Francisco. The service is, at least for now, weekdays only with six morning and six evening departures. The trip takes 35 minutes.

Streetsblog tried the ferry out this morning on a reverse commute from San Francisco to Richmond.

Andrew Butt rousted his two children at five this morning to join their mother on her daily commute to San Francisco, which she normally does on BART. Streetsblog caught up to Butt and his kids as they were boarding a return ferry. “It’s amazing–smooth, efficient, fabulous,” said Butt, his son and daughter still rubbing sleep out of their eyes. “Compared to BART, this is like night and day.”

Andrew Butt with his two children escorted their mother to work on the new ferry service
Andrew Butt with his two children escorted their mother to work on the new ferry service. Here they are lined up at pier G in San Francisco for the return trip. That’s Laura Talley on the left.

“My father was in transport and worked on the SMART train,” said Laura Talley, who was also doing a round-trip from Richmond. “My ride was celebratory.” Up until now, she had driven directly into San Francisco, or over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to take the ferry in from Larkspur. “It was great! I can’t wait for them to add weekend service,” said JoAnne Scherich, who was also riding out of curiosity [Update 1/11: weekend service is expected to begin this summer, says the ferry operator]. She normally takes BART from Richmond.

Although there were quite a few people riding just to try it out, there was also a large share of commuters. “I drove before but I will use this daily,” said Rachel Metcalf, who rode her bike from her home in the Richmond District of San Francisco to the ferry terminal for the ride to Richmond. She said the bike and ferry combo will take longer than driving, but she “…would rather not contribute to the world’s emissions.”

Rachel Metcalf plans to ditch her car commute in favor of a bike/ferry combo from the Richmond in San Francisco to Richmond
Rachel Metcalf plans to ditch her car commute in favor of a bike/ferry combo from the Richmond in San Francisco to Richmond

Isaac Bulm was also doing a bike/ferry combo from Alamo Square with two of his colleagues at a pharmaceutical company in Richmond. They also have a two-mile ride from the Richmond ferry terminal to their jobs. They said they already know the route and the streets are in relatively good shape, not withstanding a few potholes. “There are bike lanes, but you have to be aware,” said Bulm.

There is secure bike parking at the Richmond terminal
There is secure bike parking at the Richmond terminal

Meanwhile, the new Richmond terminal has secure electronic BikeLink bike lockers, so cyclists have the option of leaving their steeds behind if they don’t need them on the San Francisco end of the commute. AC Transit’s 74 bus serves the ferry terminal. It circulates around Marina Bay a bit and then heads up to the Richmond BART and Amtrak station. Streetsblog took the bus connection, which was easy to find, although it seemed most commuters opted to bike or drive (there’s a parking lot) to and from the terminal.

AC Transit's 74 is available right outside the dock
AC Transit’s 74 is available right outside the dock

It should be noted that ferries in both directions were already chock-a-block with commuters, given the long line of people who alighted in San Francisco and those waiting to board at Richmond. Staff on the Richmond run confirmed that the ferries are already filling up but that these first trips had gone without a hitch.

Sure beats the view from BART or the freeway
Sure beats the view from BART or the freeway

The adult cash fare is $9, with Clipper Card users paying a discounted adult fare of $6.75. The disabled, youth (5-18 years), and senior (65+) rate is $4.50.

Meanwhile, the new route is part of a wider plan by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, which operates the ferry, to gradually increase service from several locations, offering commuters a relatively cheap-to-implement alternative.

Did you ride this new ferry route? And where else would you like to see ferry service? Comment below.

  • It’s a shame Rachel can’t hop on a BART train in the Richmond District and have a one seat ride to the East Bay.

  • sf in sf

    On the other hand, imagine the confusion figuring out if you want the train in the Richmond City direction or the Richmond District direction.

  • sf in sf

    What are the emissions of these ferries per passenger-mile, and how does that compare to BART or driving?

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Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional series of reports from Chris Carlsson on the history of transit in the Bay Area. There are thousands of people using ferries on the San Francisco Bay these days, so it’s hard to remember that ferry service died out for several decades. Of course the long history […]