Redwood City ferry proposal drops anchor

Thousands of commuters hoping to ride the new multimillion-dollar ferry service between the Peninsula, San Francisco and the East Bay will be catching the boat at the end of Seaport Boulevard, at the Westpoint Slough site.

After evaluating three potential sites for the proposed Redwood City Ferry Terminal, the site just off the shipping channel and closest to a major office development was selected.

The Westpoint Slough site, located at the end of Seaport Boulevard, was chosen in part because of its location near the Pacific Shores Center Development, which offers 1.5 million square feet and can accommodate up to 5,000 employees.

The proposal is part of a vast expansion of the San Francisco Bay ferry system that includes new lines from South San Francisco, Berkeley and Redwood City. South City’s ferry terminal is expected to come online by December 2008 while service from Redwood City could begin by 2011 if things proceed according to plan.

The estimated cost of the terminal — designed much like South San Francisco’s — is $13 million to $14 million.

Two 300-passenger high-speed ferries are likely to cost a total of $22 million, and operating costs were expected to be $5 million, according to a study.

Commute times from the selected site to Oakland were approximately 45 minutes, while a ride to San Francisco is likely to be 47 minutes. The other proposed sites would each tack on an additional 5 to 6 minutes.

Boats would run hourly from The City and only run during peak hours to the East Bay, said Mike Giari, executive director of the Port of Redwood City.

The study noted that thousands of Bay Area workers commute by car and Caltrain to Redwood City including 7,000 to Oracle; 4,000 to San Mateo County offices; 1,000 to Sequoia and Kaiser hospitals; and 500 to Electronic Arts. Almost 800 of Oracle’s employees commute from shoreline communities such as Alameda, according to the study.

Despite its location between two wetlands, the site also boasted other advantages over two sites farther down the shipping channel that were considered, such as a shorter commute time and easier vehicle access.

“The terminal site is designed to avoid those wetlands,” Giari said. One disadvantage to the Westpoint site is that between 16,000-17,000 cubic yards of material will need to be dredged in three locations for ferry service to operate, Giari said.

He added that the site might require some efforts to reduce an impact on oysters in the bay and the next steps are to proceed with an environmental impact review of the site.

Campaign aims to lure drivers

A campaign to get commuters off the road and onto the water for the coming South San Francisco ferry terminal will target transbay drivers, focusing on major employers in the Oyster Point area as well as the surrounding area.

The marketing campaign would target folks frustrated by the state of traffic in the Bay Area and looking for an alternative commuting method.

Competition between the ferries and other commute options such as Caltrain, SamTrans or BART has some concerned over the viability of offering ferry service to South San Francisco, but Water Transit Authority spokeswoman Shirley Douglas said the ferry would not compete with BART because BART riders typically take the train because it runs more frequently.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson agreed, saying the two services would complement each other.

The Water Transit Authority’s efforts will focus on Oyster Point’s largest employers such as Genentech with 5,763 employees. The Peninsula Congestion Relief Alliance, which is San Mateo County’s transportation demand relief agency, operates two shuttles from BART and Caltrain stations to 30 employers on Oyster Point, and the Authority hopes to tap into employees from those companies, according to the marketing plan.

In a secondary marketing push, the Authority will focus on large employers outside of the Oyster Point area. Using information from a 2005 survey, San Francisco International Airport has nearly 8,000 workers and 2 percent live in the Oakland/Alameda/Berkeley area.

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