Ferry access meetings planned

Ferry access meetings planned

Michele Ellson
Alameda ferry

Ferry riders line up at the Main Street terminal during the July 2013 BART strike. Photo by Michele Ellson.

Updated at 3:38 p.m. Tuesday, March 4

Managers of Alameda’s Harbor Bay and Main Street ferry services and city officials are hosting a pair of public hearings this month to gauge riders’ interest in increasing service and to collect the community’s thoughts on ways to improve access to both terminals.

The meetings are slated to take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 13 in the multipurpose room at Bay Farm Elementary, 200 Aughinbaugh Way, and from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 20 in the multipurpose room at Maya Lin School, 825 Taylor Avenue.

Anyone interested in offering their input on service and parking needs who can’t make either meeting is invited to e-mail their thoughts to access_study@watertransit.org by April 30.

“We want to get all the ideas out there in terms of cost and effectiveness,” said Kevin Connolly, planning and development manager for the Water Emergency Transportation Authority.

Managers at the authority, which runs the region-wide San Francisco Bay Ferry service, originally planned to look at adding service and potential parking improvements when they saw the first signs of crowding at the Harbor Bay terminal this past spring, Connolly said. He said those plans took on an added urgency following a pair of strikes by BART workers, which boosted the ferries’ ridership.

Alameda’s ferries are being patronized by 30 percent more riders than before the strikes, Connolly said, and in some cases – particularly on Harbor Bay – the ferries fill up and riders are turned away. He said the authority will look at adding service on both lines.

But that means the ferry service’s managers will also need to figure out how to get people to the terminals – and where to put additional drivers’ cars as parking lots at both terminals are already overflowing, sending drivers who take the Main Street ferry to park along the side of the road and into other nearby lots and those who catch the Harbor Bay ferry onto nearby Adelphian Way.

While Main Street’s lot is typically overflowing – Connolly said it has 326 spaces but that on a typical day, 500 cars are parked at or near the terminal – a bigger issue there is the number of cyclists boarding ferries.

“We’re getting 100 bikes on some trips,” he said. “It’s great, except for the fact that it really slows down the service with the loading and unloading.”

The city had relaxed parking restrictions around the ferry terminals during the BART strikes, though ferry riders who parked on Adelphian were all ticketed on day in December, Connolly said. (A reader told The Alamedan about the tickets shortly after they were issued.)

Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen said the city has opted to relax parking restrictions near the Harbor Bay ferry terminal while access issues are resolved; time limits for parking have been relaxed, though drivers who park in front of a fire hydrant can still expect to be ticketed. He said one option for getting to the terminal is AC Transit's Line 21 bus.

Connolly said the authority will consider a range of options for improving access to ferry service on the Island, from adding bike racks to asking AC Transit to restore service to the Main Street ferry and building more parking – something he acknowledged the authority may not have the money readily available to do. He said the authority could also consider charging for parking like BART does, to pay for access improvements.

“We’re going into this with no particular favorite of these options,” he said.

One consideration: Whether the authority moves the Main Street terminal to Alameda Point, a move city officials see as crucial for the development of the former Naval air station and one that could forestall a major investment in the Main Street terminal.

Connolly said the authority has begun to conduct initial studies on the feasibility of a ferry terminal at Seaplane Lagoon, on the Point. He said that work is being done on a parallel track with the ferry access study.

Connolly said he hopes to have suggested options ready within six months. A second series of workshops allowing the public to have their say on draft options are planned for this summer. Additional information is on the San Francisco Bay Ferry website.

Comments

Submitted by marcklein on Tue, Mar 4, 2014

Regarding the ferry at Main Street in Alameda, it would be a lot cheaper to move the dog park to another location and turn the current dog lot into a parking lot. The ferry infrastructure is fine. There's no reason to go to the expense of moving it. It's far cheaper to move the dog park. And it could be leveled and turned into a very badly needed parking lot in a week's time.

By the way, you a 3 pm ferry from SF to Alameda is needed, The current wait of 2 hours and 15 minutes between the afternoon ferries is excessive. At least test a 3 pm ferry should be tested to see what the ridership would be.

The ferry operators have no real way of communicating with the riding public, especially potential riders. A blog would be a good way to start.

Submitted by Nicholas (not verified) on Tue, Mar 4, 2014

It would be great to see more modern, less smoky ferries like the new one they have. Some of them are getting very old and belch black smoke in our community.

Submitted by Nicholas (not verified) on Tue, Mar 4, 2014

The ferry stop needs access for cyclists like. A protected cycle track. Free electric car chargers and solar would be innovative too. Free EV charging is already happening at the Alameda mall!

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, Mar 4, 2014

There used to be bus service to the West End ferry. I believe that at one time at least two AC Transit lines served the terminal. Now none do. This is not only a major disservice to Alamedans, but also a barrier to those who visit us from San Francisco. The lack of transit service to and from the ferry throws cold water on the visions for future development of Alameda Point.

Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Wed, Mar 5, 2014

I would happily commute to and from SF if there was bus service to the terminal. The ferry is so far away from any bus stop that it makes it impossible to not drive. I'm sure that alone would decrease the amount of cars parked there.

Submitted by Sean (not verified) on Thu, Mar 20, 2014

It would seem that the newer ferries, like the Encinal and Pisces were not really designed with bike access in mind. The older Peralta is much friendlier to bikes, and so does not slow down the boarding and deboarding nearly as much.