Someday in the not too distant future, workers could be traveling between the Peninsula and the East Bay on a tranquil cruise if a plan to provide ferry service in Redwood City is approved.
For the first time since Redwood City was identified as a potential location for a ferry terminal in 1997 — back when Vice Mayor Diane Howard, then mayor, was one of the few voices championing the idea — there’s a movement afoot to make it happen and enough money to begin making actual progress.
The project still needs tens of millions of dollars that aren’t yet in hand and officials estimate it will take five to seven years before ferries are in operation.
“My biggest wish is that I will still be here when we cut the ribbon,” Howard said, with a laugh. She has sought local ferry service since 1981, when she moved to Redwood City from Long Island, New York, and was surprised to find there were no ferries operating at the port.
The county Transportation Authority in May approved $450,000 for the city to launch a feasibility study for building a ferry terminal at the port. Regional Measure 3, approved by Bay Area voters in June — currently being challenged by a lawsuit — provides $300 million for Bay Area ferry operations. An undetermined amount of those funds will go toward building the terminal and ferries for Redwood City.
“Those two pieces were part of the puzzle that needed to fall in place … to make the whole thing work,” said port commission Vice Chair Lorianna Kastrop.
In addition, $15 million was set aside for local ferry operations when county voters passed Measure A in 2008. Constructing a Redwood City terminal is expected to cost at least $30 million, and each ferry carries a $14 million to $21 million price tag.
The feasibility study, for which the city plans to hire a firm this fall, will be conducted in partnership with port officials and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), the independent agency created in 2000 that oversees ferry service in the Bay Area. The city, port and WETA are also close to inking an agreement outlining responsibilities as the project moves forward. The project will need to be approved by a number of federal agencies that oversee water operations before construction can begin.
“A ferry terminal goes through so many more regulatory agencies than a bus stop or train station,” said Kevin Connolly, WETA’s director of planning and development.
Once a potential site is identified and passes all the regulatory hurdles and the terminal is built, ferry service would move commuters on weekdays during rush hour in ferries carrying between 225 and 450 people at a time. Amenities would include Wi-Fi, bathrooms, cafe fare and alcohol. Passengers could be ferried from Redwood City to either San Francisco or Oakland in roughly 50 minutes, according to Connolly.
It’s possible that local ferries could travel between any of the existing terminals, including Vallejo, Alameda, South San Francisco, Larkspur, Tiburon and Sausalito, Connolly added. By the time Redwood City begins ferry service, terminals will be operating in Richmond, Treasure Island and Berkeley; others potential sites being studied are in Antioch, Hercules and Martinez. He said for ferry service to be a success in Redwood City, it would need to see at least 50 percent occupancy within 10 years. As comparison, the South San Francisco terminal is at 35 percent capacity in its sixth year of operation.
“For a long time, it was not clear how many would be making the commute (on ferries),” said Kastrop, noting that this uncertainty led to South San Francisco’s terminal being studied and built first. “Now, Redwood City has built itself up into quite a major economic employment center.”
Two of the biggest challenges to getting ferry terminal projects approved are the high cost of dredging, which may not be a big issue for Redwood City where larger ships already enter the port, and getting people to the terminal from their homes and from the terminal to their jobs. Those factors will be analyzed in the feasibility study.
Howard said companies operating in and near the city area are already on board with the idea of assisting in getting their workers to and from the port. Tech firms, such as Electronic Arts and Oracle, could also help fund infrastructure, similar to how Genentech contributed to the South San Francisco terminal.
“We have shuttles already set up where different companies or groups of companies in Redwood Shores go to Caltrain on a regular basis and the Stanford Marguerite (shuttle) goes through the area,” Howard said. “Stanford has said they are willing to work with us (and) larger companies along Broadway and Woodside (Road) have expressed enthusiasm, because they’re as interested in getting employees back and forth as we are.”
Ferries would also be utilized for emergency services, like moving people from one side of the bay to the other if a large earthquake puts bridges out of commission and transporting larger numbers of firefighters to an East Bay wildfire than is possible today. Federal, state and local officials have been conducting emergency drills at the port ever since FEMA designated it a staging area in the event of a major disaster more than a decade ago.
If workers take to riding ferries as much as Howard hopes, service could expand to recreational passengers, like people taking ferries to Giants or Warriors games on the weekend. A Mission Bay terminal is set to open in 2020.
Eventually, Howard said, the city’s port could be a tourist destination. The city is putting in new pedestrian paths along the water and plans to create a park and put in street lighting to allow for nighttime activities. There are locations where restaurants and nightclubs could go in if there’s enough foot traffic to warrant them.
“After Charlie Brown’s (restaurant) closed, there really hasn’t been a successful restaurant there but I think ferry service would change the complexion of that,” she said.
Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.