Water taxis ready to launch on San Francisco Bay

Courtesy Tideline Marine Group

Water taxis could be offering rides along the San Francisco waterfront this week after receiving approval from the Port Commission on Tuesday for a five-year contract serving landing spots in The City.

The Port gave two companies approval to offer services at several locations in San Francisco. Tideline Marine Group will offer point-to-point service, including pickup and drop-off at sites in the North Bay. A second company, San Francisco Water Taxi Company, will offer service between three San Francisco piers.

“The response has been, ‘It’s about time,’” Tideline Marine Group Chief Executive Officer Taylor Lewis said about water taxi service on San Francisco Bay.

Tideline Chief Operating Officer Ryan Craves said his Sausalito-based company expects to launch its on-call service Thursday with one 12-passenger boat. Two more boats will be added soon, Craves said, with five expected to be in service within two years. The model is for passengers to use a website or smartphone app to request a pickup — service that Craves likened to that of the car-pickup service Uber.

Prices for the water taxi service, which range from $30 to more than $100 for two people to travel from point to point, is more in keeping with that of a limousine, Craves said.

Meanwhile, service between South Beach Harbor, Pier 1½ and Hyde Street Harbor is expected to start with one boat sometime in October, according to Dave Thomas, owner of San Francisco Water Taxi Company.

His company owns the Emerald Lady, a 21-foot boat currently used for tours around the Bay. He also expects to add boats to the service in the near future.

Thomas said his company has yet to set a price for the hop-on, hop-off service, which is expected to run hourly.

An inquiry into bringing water taxis to the Bay has been ongoing since 2009, when the Port conducted a study about the feasibility of service along the San Francisco shoreline. In 2010, the Port selected a company to run the service, but the firm had difficulty securing the needed vessels and the license was terminated, according to Port documents. The Port solicited new bids for the contract in July and eventually selected two companies from a pool of four qualified responders.

City and company officials said Tuesday that the new service offerings may well expand in the future.

“I always felt there was a reason we did not have this here,” Thomas told the Port Commission. “I couldn’t understand why.

Now that we are putting it in, I think we will discover the reasons we should have it and the reasons why we didn’t have it before and go through those painful moments.”

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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