Tracking the Transit Taliban
Bill Coolidge’s Bay Journal…
Angel Island Victorian
House Tours
MTC’s Bay Crossings Study: More Than Just Talk
By Teri Shore Bay Environment
Going Wiggy over Wig-Wags
The F Word Line – A MUNIficent Mess
Bay Crossings Reader of the Month
Ferry Building Update
Dirty Bombs Giving you the Heebie-Jeebies?
WTA Report…
Working Waterfront:
Bill Xavier
Twenty-Fourth Annual World Footbag Championships
Water Transit Authority  WTA

Bay CrossingsBay Environment

Ferry Plans Headed for the Finish Line

By Teri Shore, Bluewater Network

The Summer of the Ferry is upon us. During the hot and foggy days months ahead, the Bay Area will be asked to weigh in on plans to expand the Bay’s ferry fleet. After more than a year of study, next month the Water Transit Authority will release its master ferry proposal and environmental report. At public hearings in September and October, we can decide what routes and types of vessels we want based on the extensive inquiry conducted by the WTA and its legions of consultants. Recent WTA sessions have forecasted two key elements of the plan: the vessel types and air emissions goals, and possible routes for an expanded commuter ferry system.

Vessel Types

The WTA has narrowed the vessels down to two types: a 350-passenger fast ferry that travels 25 to 35 knots for longer routes and a 149-passenger vessel that goes 15 to 25 knots on shorter runs.
Whatever ferryboats are ultimately built under WTA’s plan are almost certain to be the cleanest ferries in the world. These new vessels will be expected to emit at least 85 percent less air pollution than standard new diesel marine engines built after 2007. Bluewater Network applauds WTA’s initiative for setting such a high standard and will work to support a mandate that will apply that standard to WTA’s fleet as well as all new ferries built in California. At those emission levels, ferries will approach the per passenger diesel emissions of transit buses and be cleaner than cars for certain pollutants, according to air regulators’ estimates.

Recognizing the fact that the air pollution standard goes well beyond the 2007 emission performance standards for marine engines set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Bluewater Network strongly urges the WTA to undertake pilot projects designed to prove viability of the diesel and natural gas fueled technology to meet the emission goals. The master WTA plan should recommend pilot projects calling for the funding and construction of two fast ferries for longer routes such as Vallejo, both with best available after treatments, one fueled with diesel and the other with natural gas. The two-path approach will provide an alternative for meeting the WTA’s emission goals should one or the other technology fail to do so.

In the Bay Area, transit operators that chose the diesel path without other options found that diesel manufacturers did not ultimately provide the cleaner engines in the timeline that was promised. The ferry authority needs to avoid a similar situation in order to be fiscally and environmentally responsible.

To lay the groundwork for the transition to even greener ferries, the WTA should also propose a hybrid-electric ferry for shorter routes such as Sausalito and Richmond.

The fuel cell ferry planned for Treasure Island demonstrates WTA’s willingness to try out new technology. Adding the other test boats into the mix will go far in gaining support from the environmental and public health communities. The pilot project will advance ferry technology around the world and ensure that ferries on San Francisco Bay continue to get cleaner in future generations.
Paying for ferries through increased bridge tolls should also be linked to the WTA emission standards and the development of cleaner ferry technology.

Ferry Routes

New studies on potential riders for expanded ferry service on the Bay show the potential for a thriving system by 2025. Today’s 12,000 round-trips (or about 6,000 riders) is projected to grow an average of 11 percent per year to 43,000 round-trips over the next two decades if a “robust” new system is approved by the legislature next year, according to WTA presentations.

The routes under consideration include both new service and increased headways on current commuter runs. Under the most-likely plan, riders to Larkspur, Vallejo, Alameda and Oakland would find more ferries running more often.

The top potential new routes based on riders include service from San Francisco to Treasure Island, Berkeley, Mission Bay, South San Francisco, Alameda Point, Richmond, and Redwood City.
Also still in the running for possible service over the next 20 years are Port Sonoma, San Leandro, Benecia/Martinez, Antioch/Pittsburg, Hercules/Rodeo, San Leandro, and Moffett Field.

Port Sonoma remains a great concern to environmentalists because it is situated in wetlands that provide habitat for endangered species. In addition, marina owners have not been forthcoming with development plans related to ferry service, making it impossible for meaningful discussions between the conservation community and ferry planners.

Moffett Field service is apparently only viable via Hovercraft, according to WTA studies. Bluewater Network would vehemently oppose the operation of these polluting, noisy, intrusive craft here or anywhere on the Bay. In addition, Hovercraft should not be included in WTA’s recommendations because this craft was never studied or discussed as part of the Clean Marine Working Group.
Our voices will be heard at the upcoming hearings, and I hope readers of Bay Crossings will also participate in this very important ferry planning process.

To find out more, please contact me at (415) 544-0790, ext. 20, or the Water Transit Authority, n