Russian Imperial Treasures at the Presidio
Port of Oakland Boss Chuck Foster Speaks His Mind
Riders of the Tides
Hey Mr. Sand Man (and other Working Waterfront vignettes
Bay Environment
North Bay/Delta
North Coast Railroad Chugs to Life
The Ferry Ride to Hell
Father of Golden Gate Ferry Looks Back
Ferry Service to Richmond
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferry Service for Richmond: What Now?

The following report was commissioned by the City of Richmond to study the issue of ferry service for Richmond. It was prepared by the consulting firm Booz∑Allen & Hamilton Inc. with John Eells

Among San Francisco Bay Area communities, the City of Richmond presents a unique a mix of development, economic and transportation opportunities. Less than eight nautical miles north of San Francisco, Richmond is located at the western extreme of Contra Costa County, on a cape separating central San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay. Richmond enjoys expansive views of the North Bay, as well as a warmer climate and less fog than most Bay-side communities. An abundance of waterfront includes both un-developed and developed properties, with deep-water access, cargo handling and vessel repair facilities. As a historical freight terminal, Richmond is served by two Class 1 railroads. Richmond is also served by Interstate Highways 80 and 580, providing connection with western Contra Costa County and the central Bay Area, as well as direct connection to Marin County via the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Public transportation services to Richmond include BART, AC Transit and scheduled interstate and intercity corridor passenger rail services.

Historically, Richmondís economy has been focussed on heavy industry, maritime construction, petroleum refining, manufacturing, and freight transportation. Over the last decades, as heavy industry has declined, Richmond has not enjoyed the prosperity and growth that have come to characterize the greater Bay Area. Today, however, precipitous increases in Bay Area property values and living costs have increased Richmondís appeal as a location for new businesses and residents.

Under the direction of its elected leadership and staff, Richmond has fostered a remarkable transformation of its waterfront. Heavy industrial properties are being re-developed for high technology and other commercial uses, bringing new jobs to the City. Concurrently, residential and service business development is creating new communities around the waterfront. Recreation and entertainment destinations, including a new national historic park, may further increase Richmondís attraction to visitors.

Richmond is undergoing an economic transformation.

Richmondís metamorphosis introduces key considerations for those who plan and implement the communityís change. In particular, transportation is among the leading issues associated with Richmondís development, as it is for the entire Bay Area. New businesses depend on convenient access for their employees, clientele and operations. Likewise, residents require convenient transportation within Richmond and to the rest of the Bay Area.

Richmondís Water Transit Experience

As population and economic growth accelerate in the Bay Area, new means of mobility are increasingly necessary. Alternatives to automobile transportation are needed to mitigate congestion and pollution. Water transit, vital to the Bay Area from the mid-Nineteenth through the mid-Twentieth Century, has again become an appealing alternative.

Transportation is a key to the communityís vitality and quality of life.

San Francisco Bay could only be crossed by ferry until the construction of highway and rail bridges between the 1930ís and 1960ís. The BART transbay tube further obviated the need for water transit. Nevertheless, in response to local congestion and desire for alternative commute modes, new ferry services have been established. The 1998 Loma Prieta Earthquake presented a crucial need for ferry service while the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was under repair, leading to several start-ups. Ferry operations currently serve commute markets between San Francisco and Alameda, Oakland, Sausalito, Larkspur, and Vallejo. Additional recreational markets exist for ferry transportation to state and national parks and sports facilities, and for excursions.

Richmond was among the cities served by emergency ferry services following the 1989 earthquake. With the restoration of the Bay Bridge however, the ridership and the viability of the Richmond ferry service quickly declined. More recently, ferry service was provided by the Red & White Fleet, a San Francisco excursion and charter operator, via an agreement with the City of Richmond. Because fare revenue did not sufficiently cover operating costs, the operator was allowed to terminate the service under the terms of the agreement.

Richmondís recent ferry

experience has not proven its sustainable viability.

The experience of the Red & White fleet service has demonstrated several essential factors of water transitís success. Principal among these is the realization that while travel time and cost are as important to ferry patrons as they are to other travelers, they are by no means the only considerations that attract riders. To base patronage and revenue forecasts on travel time and cost alone is to ignore many other intangibles that contribute to the appeal of water transit, such as comfort, relaxation, and amenities. The Red & White experience has further illustrated the vital importance of convenient intermodal connections, marketing, and passenger information systems in generating a viable ridership.

Community support has coalesced in support of ferry service.

Despite the lessons learned from the recent ferry experience, there are still questions regarding the benefits of such a service to the City of Richmond. The essential question is: What are the rationales, including economic development, quality of life, transportation, and public perception, for providing ferry service between Richmond and San Francisco? Such rationales may comprise a business case aimed at achieving a number goals, including:

Richmond needs a rationale Ė a business case Ė for implementing new ferry service.

Ľ    Encouraging and focusing commercial and residential development on the Richmond waterfront;

Ľ    Fostering positive public perception of the community;

Ľ    Imparting a maritime character to the community; and

Ľ    Improving transportation options and quality of life for residents.

Water Transit and Richmondís Development

The business case for Richmond water transit should represent a synergy between public and private interests in the cityís development. Given the competition among transportation planning and operating authorities in the Bay Area, a new competitor such as Richmond would face tremendous challenges in securing capital and operating funds. Among these challenges is the demonstration of a compelling need for Richmond water transit, particularly according to the viability standards applied to all new starts. Much greater potential exists via liaison with existing transportation entities for the development and institution of new service. Development and business interests have invested in Richmond, and convenient transportation can increase the appeal, value and scope of their investments. An equally vital liaison is that between the City and the public proponents of water transit, a constituency possessed of commitment, talent, and tenacity. In building these liaisons, the City of Richmond can foster communication and understandings, and help build consensus regarding the goals and benefits of water transit.

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