Free shuttles ferry commuters to Oakland and back

Free shuttles ferry commuters to Oakland and back

Scott Weitze
Cross Estuary Shuttle map

Traveling on foot or bicycle through the tunnels that connect Alameda’s West End with downtown Oakland is a loud, soot-covered experience, and commute hour car traffic can be a hassle. But shuttle services provided by the City of Alameda and developers looking to fulfill their responsibility to manage tube traffic provide another option.

Over the last decade, Alameda has looked at numerous options for moving residents on and off the Island without cars. In an estuary crossing study completed in 2009, the city concluded that commuters make more than 55,000 vehicle trips through the Webster and Posey tubes per day, a number that’s expected to increase by up to 4,000 trips as future West End development progresses.

The study’s authors looked at water taxis (with a projected operating cost of up to $2.5 million per year) and a drawbridge (which had a projected cost of at least $90 million and height requirements imposed by the Coast Guard) before concluding that shuttles for pedestrians and cyclists were the most plausible near term option.

The Estuary Crossing Shuttle travels between the College of Alameda at Webster Street and Atlantic Avenue and a stop at Lake Merritt BART, with a short intervening loop to Wind River Systems. This free shuttle option for students of the College of Alameda and Laney College, Wind River employees and the general public runs every 30 minutes during peak commute hours, from 7 a.m. to noon and 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. The shuttles have space for up to 13 bicycles.

More scheduling information for the Estuary Crossing Shuttle is available on the city’s website.

Bike Walk Alameda Director of Advocacy Lucy Gigli said that funding for the Estuary Crossing Shuttle, originally procured four years ago through grants from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Transportation Fund, is set to expire this fall. Gigli said residents interested in the continuation of the shuttle can voice their interest to the City Council and the city’s public works department.

The new Alameda Landing development also provides a shuttle to the public, also with space for both pedestrians and bikes. This free shuttle travels between Target on Fifth Street and the Oakland Marriot at 11th Street and Broadway, which is close to the 12th Street BART stop.

The Alameda Landing shuttle’s morning commute trips are every 20 minutes from 6:42 a.m. to 9:52 a.m., with the last shuttle leaving Alameda at 9:32 a.m. Shuttle service is also available between 3:28 p.m. and 7:08 p.m., with the last shuttle leaving for Alameda at 6:58 p.m.

Alameda Landing developer Catellus has also committed to a study of water taxi service across the estuary to Jack London Square, but a timetable for this has not yet been announced. The full Alameda Landing to BART shuttle schedule can be found at

Marina Village runs a third free shuttle that connects the Island’s commuters to 12th Street BART in Oakland; Alameda stops include the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Challenger Drive and the AC Transit stop on Marina Village Parkway. This shuttle runs from 7:10 a.m. to 9:26 a.m., with the last shuttle leaving Alameda at 9:02 a.m., and again from 4:33 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., with the last shuttle leaving for Alameda at 6:19 p.m.

Departure times for this shuttle, which Marina Village’s new owner, Brookfield Property Partners, voluntarily initiated, vary. More information on the Marina Village to BART shuttle schedule is available at

Conspicuously absent from the Island shuttle offerings are late night and weekend estuary crossing options. Pedestrians and bicyclists can take the Main Street Alameda ferry to Jack London Square “short hop” for $1.50, though this provides only way one travel from Alameda to Oakland with no ferry route back to the Island. Several AC Transit lines connect the West End and downtown Oakland, and the buses have racks for bicycles.

For those who still want to experience the thrill of riding through the Posey tube, Bike Walk Alameda’s Gigil said the organization was able to get Caltrans to commit to a modest expansion of the single passable bike and walking route through the tube. In May, a new fence and railing similar to that found on the Golden Gate Bridge will be installed and the pedestrian and bicycle path will be expanded by six inches, hopefully allowing better two way movement.


Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

I have ridden both tubes on my bike, on the pavement and on the sidewalks. (The one and only time I rode the Alameda-bound Webster Tube sidewalk years ago, I did not know that bike access was prohibited in the Webster: I arrived at the Oakland side, thinking bike access "must" be provided, but it was not. I lifted my bike over the chain link fence and rode the super-narrow sidewalk, but would *never* recommend that anyone else do that.)

For strictly educational reasons, I think *everyone* should walk or ride the Posey Tube's tiny bike-pedestrian path--just once--so they know what walkers and cyclists are up against. Riding or walking the Posey is noisy, windy (from the 60 MPH traffic), and dirty: the walls are filthy and you cannot help but rub up against them on a bike or when squeezing past someone traveling in the opposite direction. The exposure to vehicle exhaust is not good for lung tissue, either. If you are in a wheelchair, riding a (wider) recumbent trike, or towing a trailer, you can forget about being able to even get into the Posey Tube: the narrow path is *far* from ADA-accessible.

Even after the minuscule walkway improvements scheduled for later this year, cyclists and walkers will not have anything like *equitable* 24/7/365 access between Oakland and Alameda's West End, and that is what we need. All of our local streets and roads should offer *equivalent* safe and convenient travel options for those who do not or cannot drive a motor vehicle.

Providing equivalent safety and convenience for non-motorized travelers across the estuary at our West End would take lots of pressure off of the tubes' limited capacity and relieve the oft-discussed traffic congestion problems that seem to vex many of our residents.

State law, our Transportation Master Plan, and the Americans with Disabilities Act all call for streets, roadways, sidewalks, and other transportation solutions that are inclusive and universal--when will we make this happen across or underneath the estuary?

Submitted by David (not verified) on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

Just as we have gas taxes to fund auto infrastructure, bridge tolls to maintain our bridges for autos, we should have some analog - registration fees, or taxes - for bicycles, to fund much-needed improvements such as sane bicycle access through both the webster and posey tubes.

Al Wright's picture
Submitted by Al Wright on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

I had occasion to be at Bay Farm Elementary School yesterday morning at 8:30. Traffic around the school is horrendous, and I've heard that the ferry parking lot is full so ferry-goers are parking on residential streets to access the ferry. Seems that Harbor Bay is ripe for a shuttle. Let peeps leave their cars at home and ride the shuttle to the ferry. For the school, instead of all those parents sitting in their SUV's for 15 or 20 minutes each morning trying to drop their kids off, couldn't they each commit to standing on the corner nearest their home, and monitoring kids walking to school? Hand off your group to the next parent just a block or so away. Would save the parents' sanity, would save the earth, would give our kids some much needed exercise. Everybody wins (except Big Oil)!

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

I like to ride my bike, but mid island to the Amtrak station at Jack London via the Webster tube is beyond acceptable. It would be like a twice daily cancer treatment... to get lung cancer. Totally agree with Jon above.

Across the Park street bridge and around Oakland's waterfront is just too far from where I live. I would gladly use a water taxi from, say, Grand St or behind Marina Village to get to the train. That would be great.

Of course, when the city and AC Transit can't even figure out how to provide a bus to the West End Ferry, it's hard to be optimistic about improvements.

Submitted by Frances K. (not verified) on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

Regarding a shuttle at Harbor Bay, this should also include the rest of Bay Farm Island, please. The city held their first town hall meeting related to the parking situation at the HB ferry terminal last week. For a more immediate resolution to the problem, a shuttle would be a great idea, not just for the ferry, but for the two elementary schools. Way too many cars trying to exit through Island Drive. The initial response from the city was that the shuttle did not work during the BART strike. I took the shuttle, and I say that the communication regarding the pickup times and locations were not accurate and incomplete. The city needs to look into this alternative.

Submitted by Pete (not verified) on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

Are there any legitimate plans for a new bridge for Alameda? With all this planned development and more cars trying to leave and enter the city, what are our options going to be besides a big old traffic jam?

Submitted by petitemaman on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

I have it upon reliable sources tell me that it would be outrageously expensive. This article confirms it at almost a $1Billion, so you know that's conservative number. Who will pay for this?

Submitted by Irene Thomas (not verified) on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

What happened to the AC Transit bus which met the Main Street Ferry at landing time? Parking at the Ferry Terminal there reaches all the way down the road now. We used to be able to transfer to the bus to get home from the ferry.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

Pete - there are now realistic plans to build any kind of new bridge or tube from Alameda to Oakland.

The first problem is that the Coast Guard can abide by no bridge west of coast guard island - they aren't going to wait for a bridge to lift to get a cutter through.

(The best development suggestion I've heard in Alameda in the past 10 years is to move the Coast Guard from Coast Guard island to Alameda Point, and let the cutters use the deepwater piers there, and build housing on Coast Guard Island.)

Apart from the Coast Guard problem, there is no practical location on the Oakland side where any such bridge/tube would be useful. From Jack London Square all the way west, it's Port of Oakland property. I don't imagine the Port of Oakland yielding any land in the middle of the port to support a new pair of tubes from Alameda Point to Oakland to I-880.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Wed, Mar 4, 2015

In light of the above, I think we should build as many new housing units as possible. Thousands and thousands of them. And, we can have studies that will assure us that it will all be okay. Yeah, that's the ticket!