Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Mike Gougherty

WETA Plans Major Expansion of Ferry Service on the SF Bay


October 1, 2017

WETA's North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility, on Mare Island, Vallejo, opened in January 2017.

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) is a regional public transit agency tasked with operating and expanding ferry service on the San Francisco Bay, and with coordinating the water transit response to regional emergencies. Under the San Francisco Bay Ferry brand, WETA carries more than 2.7 million passengers annually utilizing a fleet of 14 high-speed passenger-only vessels. San Francisco Bay Ferry currently serves the cities of Alameda, Oakland, San Francisco, South San Francisco and Vallejo.

Since 2012, San Francisco Bay Ferry ridership has increased 74 percent and has increased 29 percent over the past two years. To meet existing and projected ferry service demand, WETA is working to implement its "2016 Strategic Plan" that calls for a fleet of 44 vessels, serving 16 terminals, with five times today's daily number of riders and a 740-percent increase in peak capacity by 2035. When expansion is completed, ferries will depart every 15 minutes in the highest volume locations making "taking the boat" the first-choice travel option for thousands more Bay Area residents.

Fleet expansion is already underway as WETA has recently launched the Hydrus and the Cetus, two of seven new ferries expected to enter service over the next three years. Of the seven new vessels, four (including the Hydrus and Cetus) are 400-passenger 27-knot propeller propulsion boats. The remaining three will be 34 knot 445-passenger water jet vessels.

WETA's long-range plan calls for new ferry terminals in Richmond, Berkeley, Redwood City and in the Carquinez Strait, while the City of Alameda will get a third terminal at its Seaplane Lagoon. In addition, WETA is working with the City of San Francisco to establish new terminals at Treasure Island and Mission Bay.

WETA has already taken major steps to establish the infrastructure needed to support this ambitious plan. A new 23,000 square foot North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility on Mare Island in Vallejo was opened last January. Also, construction of the four-story 25,000 square foot Ron Cowan Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in Alameda is underway with a scheduled completion date of spring/summer 2018. Finally, the Downtown San Francisco Ferry Terminal Expansion Project will expand berthing capacity near the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Cetus and her sister vessel Hydrus, delivered this year by Seattle's Vigor, are fitted with an exhaust after-treatment and MTU 12V4000 M64 EPA Tier 3 engines. Photos courtesy of WETA.

The project includes construction of two new ferry gates and vessel berthing facilities that will support new ferry services from San Francisco to Richmond and Treasure Island, as well as other future locations. The Project also will improve landside conditions at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal by providing new amenities such as weather-protected canopies, the construction of a new plaza area south of the Ferry Building, the extension of pedestrian promenade areas, and other public access improvements.

The new gates and amenities will significantly improve waiting and queuing conditions for existing riders and expand the space available for WETA to stage emergency water transit services in the event of a regional transportation disruption or disaster.

Mike Gougherty is a Senior Transportation Planner with the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). His responsibilities at WETA include capital project development, fare policy, station access planning, and ridership forecasting.


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