A ferry is shown departing the San Francisco Ferry Building on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

New 300-passenger ferry to join SF Bay fleet

San Francisco Bay will soon see a new commuter ferry grace its waters, as officials aim to ease congestion on the roads and crowded BART trains.

The construction of a new high-speed ferry was commissioned Thursday to join the growing fleet of public transit vessels crisscrossing local waters.

The Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, the public transit agency that runs the San Francisco Bay Ferry service, voted to approve the construction of the $13 million ferry which is expected to be delivered by 2020.

It will be the eighth vessel added to the fleet since 2017, the agency said, in a statement. Three new 400-passenger ferries have entered service since April 2017, with one more on track to be added in 2019. Meanwhile, three new 445-passenger ferries are also under construction and expected to begin service in 2019.

The new ferry approved Thursday will be able to carry 300 passengers and have capacity for at least 35 bicycles.

“We’re aggressively expanding San Francisco Bay Ferry service, and we need additional vessels to meet the high demand,” said Nina Rannells, executive director of WETA, in a statement.

WETA plans to expand service to the city of Richmond in January 2019, and to the Mission Bay neighborhood “within a few years.”

The agency’s 20-year strategic plan calls for operating at 16 terminals with 44 vessels by 2035. Today, they operate at nine terminals with 14 vessels.

In a recent op-ed in the S.F Examiner, State Assemblymember David Chiu advocated for the expansion of ferry service in the San Francisco Bay.

“Ferry terminals are relatively inexpensive to build, and the infrastructure for ferries and water taxis can be scaled quickly, one of our few short-term opportunities to greatly expand transit capacity,” he wrote. “Water transit can help connect the job centers of San Francisco, Oakland and Silicon Valley to San Francisco’s growing southern waterfront as well as the Peninsula, Berkeley, Richmond, and other points around the Bay.”

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