(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Blue & Gold fleet to retire its only commuter ferry

One old boat will soon ferry passengers from San Francisco to Tiburon for the last time. But in the wake of its loss, Tiburon commuters will net a new means of transit to The City.

San Francisco’s Blue & Gold Fleet will soon retire the only commuter ferry it owns, the Zelinsky. As the only ferry on the Tiburon commuter route, that means Blue & Gold no longer provides the commuter ferry for that line.

Tiburon commuters won’t be stranded, however, as the Golden Gate District’s Board of Directors voted unanimously Feb. 26 to start a new Golden Gate Ferry line to Tiburon.

“The boat is reaching the end of its useful life in terms of a fast boat service,” said Sue Muzzin, a spokeswoman for Blue & Gold.

The Zelinsky is the only ferry that runs commuter routes. Blue & Gold does however own ferries that run on “excursion” routes, like to Angel Island or Sausalito, Muzzin said.

The Zelinsky will soon be sold, she said, sometime after the summer. In light of that sale, Muzzin said, “we thought finding another operator who can make the trip in 20 minutes was the responsible thing to do.”

Golden Gate Ferry will run service from San Francisco to Tiburon using its one of its existing seven ferries, and won’t need to immediately purchase new vessels, said Priya Clemens, a spokeswoman for the Golden Gate District.

Running the new service to Tiburon will cost about $1.8 million annually. Service will begin in the summer, Clemens said.

“We will not leave our passengers high and dry,” said Muzzin.

The Zelinsky has been part of Blue & Gold’s fleet since 1997, though it was built in 1986.

“People say, ‘Why don’t you get a new boat?’ It’s expensive,” said Muzzin. She added it could cost anywhere between $10 million to $20 million to purchase a new “high speed, 400-passenger ferry.”

Blue & Gold operates a fleet of 19 seafaring vessels, but only eight of those are owned by the company itself. The other 11 are owned by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, a regional agency.

“It’s also important to realize the Blue & Gold fleet is the only privately funded commute ferry service on the Bay,” Muzzin said. Public agencies like Golden Gate Ferry can better afford to run the commutes because they are taxpayer subsidized, she said.

Ultimately, Blue & Gold’s decision to not run the commuter line to Tiburon was, she said, a “business decision.”

Two other Blue & Gold ferries will provide supplemental Tiburon service during midday and weekend excursions, Muzzin said. But the morning and evening commutes will be the province of Golden Gate Ferry.

Blue & Gold’s other commuter lines, including ones to Alameda and Oakland from San Francisco, will not be affected by the sale of the Zelinsky.

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