Help Plan Future Ferries for the Bay Area

A ferry leaving Richmond. Streetsblog/Rudick
A ferry leaving Richmond. Streetsblog/Rudick

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Ferries may someday run directly between Oakland and Vallejo, Berkeley and Larkspur, San Francisco and Hercules and Martinez. These are just a few of the new services that could eventually come to the Bay Area as the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) refines its long term-planning.

A map of one possible plan for expanding ferry service. Image: WETA

Those new service concepts are the result of a survey conducted by WETA. From a release:

With your help, we received 1,300+ poll submissions between July 11, 2022 and August 31, 2022, and added 600+ subscribers to our project email list!

Combined with input from local elected officials, planning and transportation staff, and business and community representatives, this valuable public feedback helped inform the development of a series of San Francisco Bay Ferry service expansion concepts.

It was a few years ago that WETA announced it would begin looking at new routes throughout the Bay Area, leveraging the potential of the region’s expansive water system to give people another alternative to sitting in traffic. WETA’s Kevin Connolly explained that each ferry represents “…the equivalent of three BART trains or 48 buses in the peak hour.”

And with the nature of work and commuting shifting, the flexibility of ferries–not requiring highways or new rail lines–has not been lost on regional planners and officials. Readers will recall that a little over a year ago Oakland City Councilmember and vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan wrote a letter pressing for direct service from Oakland to other cities in the Bay Area, moving away from having nearly all ferries shuttle between San Francisco’s ferry terminal and other destinations. And late last year, Streetsblog asked if ferries could better connect the Bay Area’s three regional rail systems–Amtrak at Jack London Square, SMART at Larkspur, and Caltrain a short walk from the ferry dock at Mission Bay.

Another conceptual model WETA has put together based on survey feedback. Image: WETA
Another conceptual model WETA has put together based on survey feedback. Image: WETA

WETA is asking people interested in transit to study the initial concepts and give further feedback on their web page as they continue to work on expansion plans for the next 20 years.

“This service visioning effort is a unique opportunity to re-imagine water transit and address emerging priorities concerning the environment, mobility, accessibility, equity, economic development, emergency response, and quality of life throughout the Bay Area,” writes WETA‘s staff.

Tell WETA, but also leave your suggestions and ideas in the comments below.

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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 […]