Commuters ready to launch

Plans are afloat to construct two new ferry launches on San Francisco’s waterfront, part of a plan to spin a web of ferry routes throughout the Bay.

The two launches, which will be built just south of the Ferry Building on Pier 2 and will cost at least $45 million, could be the destination of ferries carrying commuters and visitors from South San Francisco, Berkeley or Alameda, Hercules, Antioch, Martinez, Richmond, Redwood City and Treasure Island.

Proponents say the ferry system could bring in millions for waterfront businesses, and save time and money for people like Alton Curtis, a Woodland resident who comes to The City about once a month to visit his daughter. On Sunday, Curtis traveled by Amtrak rather than car to save on fuel and parking costs.

“If we had the opportunity of taking a ferry here, we would do that,” he said. “With the price of gas and parking, we tend to leave our car at home anyway.”

The project has been toyed with for years but gained momentum late last year, when California’s Legislature rebirthed the Water Transportation Authority as the Water Emergency Transportation Authority. Along with a new name, the agency was handed about $250 million to beef up the Bay Area’s water transit system and to help keep people moving after a major earthquake or other disaster.

The agency’s board recently began discussing the project with the Port of San Francisco; if all goes well, environmental reviews could begin early next year, WETA spokeswoman Shirley Douglas said. The goal is to have the launches up and running in two to three years, said Jonathan Stern, the Port’s assistant deputy director of waterfront development projects.

The launches would be constructed behind Pier 2’s century-old Agriculture Building, and the Port may decide to renovate that building as the new launches are constructed, Stern said.

The Port, which oversees about seven miles of The City’s waterfront, has approximately 30 piers that need seismic retrofitting at a potential cost of $1 billion.

John Lee, longtime server at Sinbad’s on Pier 2, said ferry launches could only be good for the restaurant’s business. He said much of his clientele are ferry riders and that the $45 million-plus price tag for the landings is worth it.

“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that oil prices will never come down drastically. People will take ferries because it’s cheaper than driving and usually reliable,” he said. “So you either spend the money now or you spend it later.”

kworth@sfexaminer.com

Time well spent?

Time it would take for commuters to travel by ferry or by car.

East Bay to San Francisco

Oakland (Oakland/Alameda Ferry)

Ferry: 30 minutes

Car: 20 to 40 minutes

Alameda (Oakland/Alameda Ferry)

Ferry: 20 minutes

Car: 25 to 45 minutes

Alameda Harbor (Alameda Harbor Bay Ferry)

Ferry: 25 minutes

Car: 33 to 55 minutes

North Bay to San Francisco

Vallejo (Vallejo Baylink Ferry)

Ferry: 50 minutes

Car: 40 to 90 minutes

Marin County to San Francisco

Sausalito (Golden Gate Ferry, Blue and Gold Fleet)

Ferry: 25 minutes

Car: 25 to 35 minutes

Tiburon (Blue and Gold Fleet)

Ferry: 20 minutes

Car: 30 to 40 minutes

Larkspur (Golden Gate Ferry)

Ferry: 30 minutes

Car: 35 to 45 minutes

Times are approximate.

Sources: Golden Gate Transit, Alameda/Oakland Ferry, Vallejo Baylink Ferry Water Emergency Transportation Authority, Google Maps.

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