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Ferry projects could funnel money away from existing systems

Steve Geller
Monday September 10, 2001


The article (9/1) about the Water Transit Authority meeting said that I’m worried about ferries taking riders away from existing public transit. Actually, I expressed concern about money, not riders. I thought ferry projects might take away money which could be used to support bus service. 

Everyone at that WTA meeting did seem to agree that there’s no point in pursuing yet another type of transit, ferries, unless ferry service is going to cut back on congestion. It’s funny that every big transportation project starts off by claiming to be a way to cut back on traffic congestion. This even happened with Measure B. So-far, the congestion is still with us. 

There is no end to ideas for spending our tax and toll money on transportation. We hear about rebuilding the Bay Bridge, the “southern crossing “ new bridge, rail on the Dumbarton, BART to Warm Springs and San Jose, BART to Livermore, a fourth bore on the Caldecott, regional express buses, Bus Rapid Transit, feeder buses to the suburban BART stations, the Oakland Airport connector. 

There’s even a plan for a cable gondola between West Oakland and Alameda. 

BART is already deep into our tax pockets for BART-SFO, a project which may or may not curb congestion. 

So, on top of all this, we have the Water Transit Authority with yet another way to spend our money (and of course, cut back on congestion). 

Well, I like to ride the boats around the Bay, and I’ll agree that maybe ferries are good for some transit connections, but I tend to begrudge the money being spent on the WTA, when I know that most places, the cheapest and quickest way to deploy transit is by simply putting on more buses. 

Ferry service should be used only where it provides a more direct link between points than does other transit. 

The recent demise of the Richmond ferry might give us pause when planning for ferry service in the East Bay. It might be that people wanted to drive to the dock and park there. The trip may have been too short, and not much less expensive or more convenient than driving or BART. 

On the other hand, the Baylink ferry to Vallejo has been a great success. It is large, comfortable and fast. It also covers a sizeable distance, cutting out a lot of driving. When I’ve ridden it on a weekday evening, I noticed that nearly all passengers use a pass; this means that they ride it regularly. 

Of course, on arrival at Vallejo, these Baylink riders proceed to the large parking lot, just like people coming home to Concord via BART. It’s still not a total transit trip. 

Whatever the WTA does, I hope they don’t spend money to start a new bus service to serve the ferry terminals. 

Steve Geller