Landing rights on tap for water taxi service

Getting stranded in Sausalito after missing the last ferry to The City or paying exorbitant prices for a cab over the Bay Bridge could soon be problems of the past, under a new transportation plan that will connect passengers to different parts of the Bay, all in a matter of minutes.

A network of water taxis, ferrying passengers from San Francisco to points in Marin, the East Bay and the Peninsula, could take its first step to reality on Tuesday, when the Port Commission votes on offering up five-year landing rights for the service at Pier 1½ and the Hyde Street Harbor.

Potentially operational by the end of the year, the taxi service’s fleet will range from smaller “mosquito” boats that carry 12-18 passengers to larger ships that can take on as many as 49 riders, according to John Scannell, president of San Francisco Water Taxi LLC, the private company set to run the service.

Scannell said the water taxis are not designed to compete with ferries or other forms of public transportation, but will instead act as on-call vehicles designed to whisk passengers from port to port in a matter of minutes.  At 45 knots, a trip from Sausalito to the Hyde Street Harbor would take just over five minutes, Scannell said.

The prices of the taxi service are still being worked out, but Scannell said they’ll likely be based on a zone structure that charges more for further travel.

“This will be worth it to passengers,” said Scannell. “This isn’t going to a tour boat ride. We’re interested in getting people across the Bay quickly and in a cost-effective manner.”

Passengers in a rush can call up the water taxi and request immediate port-to-port service, although the costs of expedited travel will be steeper, Scannell said. Other options include a more roundabout route, similar to the bus shuttles that take passengers down to the San Francisco International Airport.

If approved by the Port Commission on Tuesday, the landing points at Hyde Street Harbor and Pier 1½ will be the first of several ports authorized for the service. Scannell said plans are currently in the works for stops at Tiburon, Sausalito, Emeryville, Berkeley and, a little later down the road, at SFO.

Kevin Carroll, president of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, said water taxis will add a special dimension to travel options to the neighborhood.

“I think the amazing part about this plan is that you’ll be arriving to the Wharf from the water,” said Carroll. “That creates a whole new experience for visitors.”

Along with offering its users an alternative form of travel, the water taxi service will provide the Port of San Francisco with a new funding stream. As part of the landing-rights agreement, the Port will receive 7 percent of the water taxi’s annual gross revenues.

Water taxi facts

Speed:
45 knots on the open water
Travel time: 5½ minutes from Hyde Street Harbor to Sausalito
Cost: Still being determined — will vary depending on expediency and distance
Capacity: From 12-18-passenger vessels to 49-passenger vessels
Landing sites: Pier 1½, Hyde Street Harbor, Emeryville*, Berkeley*, SFO*, Sausalito*, Tiburon*

*Planned

Source: SF Port

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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