San Francisco Ferry Terminal

While enhancing the economic viability and use of San Francisco’s Ferry Terminal and its surroundings is a key objective of the proposed Ferry Terminal Expansion, the driving force behind the project is the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA).

By expanding the number of ferry gates and improving pedestrian circulation and boarding, the Ferry Terminal expansion project will enhance WETA’s emergency response capabilities to evacuate people from San Francisco in the event of a major catastrophic event, such as the Loma Prieta earthquake which disabled the Bay Bridge in 1989.

With seven new routes and ferry service from downtown San Francisco to Berkeley, Richmond, Treasure Island, Hercules, Martinez, Antioch and Redwood City planed to be introduced between 2014 and 2030, the ferry terminal will serve a projected 32,000 riders per weekday by 2035, up from around 10,000 passengers across six ferry routes today.

The current estimated cost for the expansion plan as proposed is roughly $93 million with the full build-out of the proposed improvements “contingent on potential ridership demand at full build-out of the proposed Treasure Island redevelopment.”

With no plans to incorporate a landing for water taxis at the Terminal as part of the expansion, Pier 1½ in the upper right corner of the photo above would continue to serve as the downtown stop for water taxi and shuttle services on the Bay.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    WETA’s evac concern could be also satisfied by positioning a USMC amphibious landing battalion close enough to help after a quake. Hey, Mare Island has plenty of space now.
    Satisfying evac requirements by a weak ferry service doesn’t seem to be very effective operationally or financially.
    After the Big One SF will be cut off on all four sides. So immediate evac will need to be by sea or helicopter. Or on foot around Mt. San Bruno for the hardy.

  2. Posted by sf_guv

    WETA? You’re 16 days late for 4/1? You’re 3 days early for 4/20? It should be called WITA (weak idea for another transit authority)?
    IN the event of the massive quake they could just pull up boats wherever?
    Oy this town.

  3. Posted by BobTheBuilder

    Where are Über-Wasser and Water-Lyft supposed to dock in this scheme? They’re going to need their own pier …

  4. Posted by frshmn

    Hasnt ferry service been proven a money loser and inefficient mode of transit? Hercules, Martinez and Antioch arent exactly major destinations or even home to significant populations.

  5. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “IN the event of the massive quake they could just pull up boats wherever?”
    That might not be a reliable plan. The FEMA report that I read predicts that most of SF’s dock facilities will be destroyed in the Big One. So you might be able to get a boat near the waterfront but still have no easy way to cross the final 50 feet to the shore.
    That’s why I suggested a military stand-by solution. They’re good at getting people and supplies into and out of places that don’t have developed facilities. They’re also prepared to rapidly construct ports, bridges, and airstrips. Crissy Field might see a reprise of its historic use.

  6. Posted by curmudgeon

    Ferry service is a total loser for most new locations planned. It’s all nostalgia that propels the development of the system (and a very weak “Emergency” argument). But look at the service rolled out to South San Francisco recently: it’s a disaster. They’re proposing to add more service so they can convince folks to ride it…but the demand just isn’t there. The cost per rider is astronomical, and the pollution per person is worse than cars. The problem is there’s not a lot of population near any of the proposed terminals…like Berkely where the population is MUCH closer to BART in downtown than to the waterfront.
    The only place I can see Ferries working well is for Treasure Island, since bridge access is problematic. But like many on here, I question whether that project should ever go forward given sea level rise and huge engineering costs required to make the island safe.

  7. Posted by James

    “Hasnt ferry service been proven a money loser and inefficient mode of transit”
    Maybe, but I think every form of transportation is a money-loser and inefficient to some degree. Does Caltrans make money from building & maintaining roads? And when you sit in traffic over the Bay Bridge, does it seem that efficient?

  8. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    @curmudgeon, well said.
    I’m also skeptic on the emergency evacuation argument. I bet it will be much cheaper to take an inventory and maintain on all the pier facilities like the cruise terminal, pier 30, etc, than to run regular ferry services just in case it might help in a disaster. It sounds like people are running out of argument so that they come up with this emergency response point.
    I love the ferries by way. I ride it as a tourist. But there should be much better financial ground to support any big expansion.
    @James, my believe is while most form of public transportation need subsidies, the subsidies for ferry services is much higher. So instead of spending money on ferry that benefit few people, the money can help lot more people if it is spend on bus or rails.

  9. Posted by citicritter

    Why should a metro area of millions wrapped around a huge navigable body of water NOT be able to take advantage of an thorough, efficient & sustainable water transport system?
    Has anyone ever been to Sydney? Its metro area/geography/weather is very similar to ours, and its harbor is positively teeming with water transport vessels…so what’s the problem here?

  10. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Yes Treasure Island is perhaps the only route that can be competitive. Even then it is not a sure win. You can run buses that reach many more places that the ferry building.

  11. Posted by lyqwyd

    If they built densely around the ferry terminals in the east & north bay it could be a reasonably successful transit system, but that seems unlikely, so it will probably be in the realm of extreme subsidies.
    I also occasionally ride and enjoy as a tourist, but agree that it seems like a very inefficient system if they do not include the necessary development to bring a high level of demand.

  12. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    @citicritter, the only thing is bus and rail are more efficient when they are available. That’s why the ferries once Bay Bridge is opened.
    I have not been to Sydney. I looked it up on the map and I’d say Sydney is not similar to ours. The San Francisco Bay is much larger that Sydney’s estuary. One of the longest route to Manly is about 10km long. That’s about the same as the shortest route to Jack London Square. The Vallejo and proposed Redwood city route is up to 40km. So more fuel has to be spend to cover the route and the population is more dispersed.
    So one of the problem is really because of the huge navigable body of water. It will be lot more conductive to ferry service if there is a “small” body of water, just enough water and irregular terrain to make land transport a difficult in comparison.

  13. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    I mean the ferries ^are dead^ once Bay Bridge is opened.

  14. Posted by Alai

    If anyone’s interested in ferry finances, here’s a pdf to read: http://www.watertransit.org/files/pubs/WETA%20SRTP%20DRAFT.pdf
    Summary is that average farebox recovery (ie percent of costs paid directly by passengers) is around 50%. That’s not too bad– lower than BART, which I think is in the mid-60s, but higher than Muni and others.

  15. Posted by Jason

    Isnt the Marin ferry viable? I’ve never taken it but many of my coworkers do, and that one makes sense to me. Driving over the GGB and then having to traverse half the city only to pay a ton for parking seems like a drag compared to parking in Larkspur and getting sloshed at the bar on a boat.

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