The Bay Area transportation landscape is witnessing unprecedented growth and change. As the region experiences phenomenal economic and population growth, aging transportation infrastructure, competing funding priorities, and outdated equipment are stressing intermodal passenger capacity and efficiency as never before. Clearly, the region must look at new and innovative ways to ensure the Bay Area can responsibly meet the public's transportation and commuting needs now and in the future. Ferries are, and must be, part of the long-term solution.
Over the last 10 years, ferries have become an increasingly critical and attractive part of the Bay Area's transportation system, and the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) has become a valued partner to local communities in helping to meet the region's overburdened transportation needs. This 2016 WETA Strategic Plan outlines a vision for the San Francisco Bay Ferry system over the next 20 years that responds to passenger demand, makes critical infrastructure investments, and increases WETA's ability to respond to emergencies and system disruptions.
With funding and environmental approvals, WETA's long-range plan calls for new terminals in Richmond, Treasure Island, Mission Bay, Berkeley, Redwood City, Seaplane Lagoon, the South Bay, and the Carquinez Strait, ultimately creating a robust 16-terminal regional network to meet the Bay Area demand for a safe, sustainable and environmentally responsible transportation alternative. As WETA plans for the future, its vision is that ferries run every 15 minutes in the highest volume locations, and that commuting by ferry is the first-choice travel option for thousands more Bay Area residents every day.
WETA has made significant progress toward this goal. Ferry ridership is at an all-time high. Legacy services in Vallejo, Alameda and Oakland have transitioned smoothly from city-run services to WETA operations. The first new ferry terminal built in the Bay Area in decades—in South San Francisco—is thriving after a ramp-up period. Funded projects such as the North Bay and Central Bay maintenance facilities, as well as expansion of the downtown San Francisco Ferry terminal and a new terminal in Richmond, are in the final design or construction phases. And finally, expansion candidate terminals throughout the Bay are seeking funding to enter project implementation.
Achieving WETA's 20-year vision will require all stakeholders to unite in investing in an expanded, financially efficient and environmentally sound regional ferry system. WETA must think bigger and more creatively to meet soaring consumer demand, while accomplishing its emergency response mission. Bipartisan support and regional collaboration among elected officials, statewide and local referendums, and expanded public-private partnerships will be key to SF Bay Ferry's success in bringing the benefits of water transit to even more communities and passengers.
Download the full the WETA Strategic Plan (6.2 MB PDF, 38pp)