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Transit Authority Promotes Marina Terminal: By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday November 09, 2004

The architects of a proposed ferry service from Berkeley to San Francisco unveiled their ridership study Saturday, saying that the Berkeley Marina is emerging as the leading site for the service. 

Although the location of a proposed ferry terminal in Berkeley remains uncertain, Steven Castleberry, executive director of the Water Transit Authority (WTA), said that barring a fight from Albany, the marina is the likely spot. 

At a special joint meeting of the city’s Waterfront and Transportation commissions, Castleberry outlined a modest commuter service that by 2010 would begin transbay service. 

The WTA, established in 1999 by legislation authored by State Senator Don Perata (D-Oakland), is flush with money. In March, Bay Area voters approved Measure 2, also championed by Perata, which earmarked $41.5 million for creating and expanding ferry lines.  

For the proposed Berkeley service, the measure will contribute $12 million for two new boats and a projected $3.2 million annual subsidy to help pay for the service. What the measure won’t pay for is the estimated $10 million needed to construct a terminal that warring parties want to see either at the edge of the Berkeley Marina, or further north, either at the mouth of Gilman Street in Berkeley or Buchanan Street in Albany. 

Norman La Force of the Sierra club, reiterated the group’s opposition to locating a ferry terminal anywhere other than the marina. The alternative locations, he said, would direct ferries through the waters of the Eastshore State Park, a plan he compared with rerouting busses through Yosemite National Park to get to Reno. 

“You’re not going to get a consensus if Gilman or Buchanan is chosen as the site,” he said. 

Jeri Holan of Friends of an Albany Ferry said, “I don’t want to see public money wasted on a service that might never get off the ground.” She noted that ferry service from the marina has failed before. The most recent attempt, following the Loma Prieta Earthquake, lasted less than a year. 

The Sierra Club and local environmental organizations can wield influence over land use on the shoreline. Two years ago, they worked to keep athletic fields off a section of Albany coastline and currently they are battling the Magna Corporation over the company’s planned commercial development at the site of the Golden Gate Fields Race Track. 

For a ferry terminal to be viable either on Gilman or Buchanan, Magna would have to allocate land to build a projected 300-400 parking spaces. 

Acknowledging the political muscle wielded by the environmental groups, Castleberry said after the meeting that unless the Albany City Council lobbied hard for the ferry service, the Marina would likely be home to the terminal. A final decision, he said, would not come until after the sites had been studied in an environmental review. 

Neither location is an ideal home to a ferry terminal, Castleberry said. The marina is prone to traffic congestion and has a limited parking supply, while directing boats to the shallow water around Gilman or Buchanan would require dredging to deepen the sea channel which could affect native wildlife, he said. 

A prolonged fight over the location of the terminal could jeopardize the service. If the funds for the Berkeley ferry aren’t dedicated by 2010, Measure 2 calls for them to be transferred to a different line. 

Studies by the WTA project a Berkeley ferry service that by 2025 would account for 1,700-1,800 passenger trips a day. Three-fourths of the passengers would arrive to the terminal by car, 56 percent would be commuters and most would live in Emeryville, North Berkeley, Albany and Kensington. The projections come from commuter surveys and computer models, Castleberry said. 

The models, which relied on land use data from the Association of Bay Area Governments, assumed that ferries would run every 30 minutes during peak hours, trips would take 28 minutes and fares would be $3.50 for a one way trip with a $2 parking fee. 

The projected subsidy for the Berkeley Ferry would be $4 per passenger per one way trip—about twice the per passenger subsidy given to AC Transit. 

Most of the projected ferry passengers would be current motorists, said Tony Bruzzone, Service and Operations Planning Manager for AC Transit. 

Measure 2 grants AC Transit the first option to run the ferry system and Bruzzone, who has previously worked with the WTA as a consultant, said AC Transit expected to exercise its option. 

The commissions are scheduled to hold a second joint meeting in March and then hold an official scoping session for the draft environmental impact report (EIR) over the summer. The draft EIR is due for review in the summer of 2006 and a final EIR is scheduled for the beginning of 2007.