Bay Ferry meets demand with extended service

San Francisco Bay Ferry officials voted Monday to expand service through October in response to high ridership and complaints from commuters about overcrowding.

The Water Emergency Transportation Authority board, which operates the Bay Ferry system, approved $825,200 in funding to extend service increases through the end of October.

The service increases approved Monday, which were first introduced in early August as temporary measures, include additional evening trips from San Francisco to Oakland and Alameda and to Vallejo, as well as increased back-up bus service for Vallejo passengers left on the docks and for San Francisco Giants game days.

Nina Rannells, the authority’s executive director, said in a statement today that addressing overcrowding and trying to find creative ways to deploy the SF Bay Ferry fleet is WETA’s top priority:

“These service enhancements are intended to maximize all available resources to maintain WETA’s commitment to customer satisfaction and service quality in the near term, while our operations team focuses on identifying and implementing long-term solutions.”

The board also voted to develop a plan for service enhancements for next spring and summer, the ferry’s peak ridership period.

Ridership has increased recently on all Bay Area transit including Golden Gate Ferry, BART and AC Transit routes, WETA staff said in a report presented at Monday’s meeting.

Ridership on the San Francisco Bay Ferry system increased more than 8 percent in the last fiscal year over the year before, to a total of 2,143,831 passengers, according to spokesman Ernest Sanchez.

Peak hour occupancy for ferries was averaging 89 percent for Oakland-Alameda and 90 percent for Vallejo in June, officials said.

On the San Francisco Bay ferries, overcrowding has led to increased complaints in the past two months as more passengers are getting left behind at the dock, especially on the Vallejo and Oakland-Alameda routes, the report said.

Vallejo passengers filed a petition on July 22 with 276 signatures requesting more back-up buses during afternoon and evening peak periods for those left behind and better communication about problems.

Ferry officials are working to obtain several additional, larger boats, but they will not be available before 2017, staff said Monday.

Funding for the ferry service, currently provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from Bay Area bridge tolls, is also currently capped at $15.3 million a year and will need to be increased to allow for longer term service enhancements, the report said.

The enhancements approved Monday will be paid for with reserve funds, officials said.
Around 48 to 50 percent of operating costs for the ferry system are covered by fares, Sanchez said.