Ferry proposal’s appeal far-reaching

Interest in the future ferry terminal at Oyster Point has come from as far as the eastern side of the Central Valley, water transit officials said.

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority is conducting surveys in the East Bay and beyond, and among businesses on Oyster Point, to determine what kind of service potential riders want. Preliminary responses to surveys about ferry service in and out of South San Francisco show a far-reaching excitement about the ferries, officials added.

The $40 million project would bring a ferry terminal to Oyster Point, taking advantage of a growing business community in South San Francisco and worsening traffic congestion along Bay Area roadways.

Service is expected to start up by the end of 2008 with a 30-minute ride carrying passengers between Oyster Point and the Jack London Square terminal in Oakland.

South San Francisco is also targeting businesses looking to move away from San Francisco and the high cost of doing business there — major developments at Oyster Point and Sierra Point in Brisbane are in the works.

The Water Transit Authority is working with the Peninsula Congestion Relief Alliance to meet with companies such as Genentech, Exelixis and Cushman and Wakefield, a real estate firm with land holdings on Oyster Point, to survey employees and tenants, Water Transit spokeswoman Shirley Douglas said.

Genentech has 8,200 employees in South San Francisco, more than 100 times the size of Exelixis, another biotech company.

Douglas said the surveys addressed what time commuters arrived and left work and whether any demand existed for midday service, among otherthings. Employees from Oakland, Alameda and even Folsom expressed interest in the ferry service, she said.

The ferry would be an “advantage” for companies at Oyster Point and Sierra Point in Brisbane, Exelixis spokeswoman Soleil Harrison said. “I think it’s an advantage to companies for hiring people that live in the East Bay because it’s another option for them to get to work,” Harrison said. “The Bay Bridge traffic is pretty terrible,” she added.

Ferry terminals are also planned for Berkeley, which is expected to open in 2011, Redwood City, Antioch-Martinez, Hercules, Richmond and Treasure Island. Berkeley’s terminal is under environmental review for its traffic and habitat impacts along the shore, Douglas said.

“The more ferries you have available, the more they could be used in case of emergency,” Douglas said.

South San Francisco City Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto said she was not comfortable with ferry service coming to South City because of concerns about bureaucracy, ridership and competition with current public transportation.

dsmith@examiner.com

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