As of Thursday, a plot of dirt dug by politicians’ shovels is all that physically exists of the soon-to-be built expansion of the Downtown San Francisco Ferry Terminal.
But the promise of the terminal’s expansion has transit officials, and business leaders who recognize the need for expanded Bay Area transit, almost giddy.
“I’m very, very excited,” Port of San Francisco Executive Director Elaine Forbes told the San Francisco Examiner at the project’s groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.
The new terminal, which is slated to open in 2019 and will cost $79 million, will help the Port address its booming ridership, which in turn may help relieve packed BART trains and congested roads as the Bay Area’s population soars.
“Getting a world-class ferry terminal is so important to where we’re headed,” Forbes said.
And where San Francisco Bay ferry service is headed, heralded by the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, is the rest of the Bay Area.
Its ferry service will expand from its current 12 vessels to 44 by 2035, and from the current seven terminals to 16 terminals, including at Treasure Island, Redwood City and San Francisco’s Mission Bay.
Today, the ferry services 7,583 daily riders, which itself is hardly one-fifth the daily ridership of Muni’s 38-Geary bus, but that will expand by five times, according to WETA.
All that expansion, Forbes and others said at the groundbreaking, is also dependent on the new expanded terminal, which will boast two new ferry gates and vessel berthing facilities, beautification of the surrounding ferry terminal, including a new plaza, pedestrian promenade, and weather-protected canopies.
Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, a business-oriented policy organization, told the crowd that expanding ferry service is not only a matter of smooth commuting but safety.
Ferries are going to “save lives” when other transportation infrastructure is inoperable in an earthquake, Wunderman said. “It may be the only system we can rely on in a disaster.”
Mayor Ed Lee, a major proponent of ferry expansion, said the project would create “good union jobs.” Michael Theriault, secretary treasurer of the San Francisco Building Trades Council told the Examiner, “There’s definitely work.”
Ultimately, Lee said, “I know when the roads work, the ferries work, and the infrastructure work, The City works.”