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Transit officials mull Treasure Island toll

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Treasure Island is currently only accessible by car or Muni, though The City will begin to offer a ferry service to the island starting in 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

New development on Treasure Island will bring roughly 20,000 new residents to that tiny speck on the Bay in the next decades.

To help those new residents — and the existing ones — get around, The City will offer new ferry service directly between Treasure Island and San Francisco starting 2021, a move officials announced Tuesday. That’s a leap ahead of the expected launch of 2025.

But to fund those ferries, and other transportation improvements, a toll will be imposed on autos entering and leaving the island.

While those tolls are slated to begin in 2021, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority has yet to set an amount — and some city officials are now openly questioning whether they should be imposed at all.

The ferries are “very exciting,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents Treasure Island. “Currently the only way to get on and off the island is by vehicle, like cars and Muni buses. Being able to take advantage of a new mode of transportation is huge for residents.”

SFCTA Deputy Director of Capital Projects Eric Cordoba announced the ferry launch date on Tuesday, at a meeting of the Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency committee, which Kim chairs. Transportation Authority spokesperson Paige Miller said that early service is possible because several smaller ferries with 50 to 100 passenger capacity will be available sooner than expected. New funding from voter-approved Regional Measure 3, which will raise certain Bay Area bridge tolls, will help fund the early start of Treasure Island ferry service.

The transportation plan for Treasure Island also includes direct AC Transit service to the East Bay and increased Muni service to San Francisco, according to the transportation authority. All of those plans are now moving forward with speed, he said.

“I’m really excited because we’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern,” Cordoba told the board. “This is the start of us moving forward with final planning, engineering and implementation.”

Transportation authority staff expect to bring recommendations for toll levels and hours to the TIMMA Board this fall, Miller said. One early report pegged the tolls at $5 during peak times, and officials are considering charging them only during the hours when the ferries operate. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission also has authority to levy tolls on Treasure Island, and is currently considering 24-hour tolls, which Kim said she does not support.

At Tuesday’s TIMMA board meeting, city supervisors questioned the wisdom of a toll.

“I think I need a little more understanding in terms of tolls,” Supervisor Norman Yee asked Cordoba. Yee is vice chair of the TIMMA committee. Imagine, he asked, if San Francisco tolled drivers entering other neighborhoods?

SFCTA Executive Director Tilly Chang told Yee the tolls were approved in 2011 along with Treasure Island’s new development.

“It’s a unique situation,” Chang said. “And the legislature recognized it as a pilot approach.”

Treasure Island residents are cautiously optimistic about the tolls. Becky Hogue, a Treasure Island resident who leads and is a member of several community groups, said “we’re not so thrilled by having to pay to get on and off the island.”

But, Hogue said, the transportation authority has demonstrated a willingness to listen to the community’s needs, including a potential discount on tolls for people with low incomes. Also, she said, the ferries will be “immensely wonderful.”

“You’ll be able to go places without having to drive your car,” she said. “On a day when the bridge might be crowded, the ferry will get you to The City in no time flat.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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