Working Waterfront: Peter Dailey, Port of San Francisco
I Lunch for a Living
Bay Crossings Journal
Bay Crossings Poetry
Springtime in Paris Sweepstakes
Ferry News
The Steam Will Rise Again
Bay Area Libations
Working Waterfront: Laurie Miskuski
Boating Calendar
Taste on the Bay on its Way
Bay Area Sailors Win National Acclaim
Cover Story: Waterfront Living
Bay Crossings Cuisine:
Port of Call: Riga, Latvia
City Welcomes New Sculpture "Cupidís Span"
New Hookup Links 511 Service With Hearing-, Speech-Impaired Travelers
WTA Pages: All Aboard for Martinez
MTC Updates Master Plan for Bay Areaís Network of Carpool Lanes
Tables by the Bay
Flight of Fantasy

Ferry News

By Wes Starratt, P.E.

Vallejoís Fourth Ferry Awaits Funding

Yes, Californiaís budget crisis is affecting the Bay Areaís ferry system. The City of Vallejoís Baylink Ferries has tentatively awarded a contract for the construction of its Ferry #4 to Dakota Industries of Anacortes, Washington. However, the contract cannot be finalized, since state funding for the vessel in the amount of $5 million is in doubt due to the budget crisis.

State Constitutional Amendment Can Boost Transportation Funding

Keep your eye on State Constitutional Amendment 2, which is slowly working its way through the state legislature in Sacramento, and, if approved, will be headed for the ballot box, possibly as early as November. The amendment will make a profound difference in future funding for transportation projects in California. Currently stymied by a requirement for two-thirds voter approval mandated by the state constitution, the amendment would reduce that requirement to a simple majority. For example, this change in the state constitution would facilitate voter approval of sales tax increases for transportation projects in such Bay Area counties as Marin, Sonoma, and Solano where past measures, although approved by majorities, have gone down to defeat because they didnít achieve the two-thirds threshold. The amendment would also facilitate the approval of transportation-related sales tax measures in other Bay Area counties when they come up for renewal and require a two-thirds voter approval. In addition, the majority threshold would apply to the Metropolitan Transportation Commissionís existing authority to seek voter approval of a regional gasoline tax for the San Francisco Bay Area. The bottom line is that approval of Constitutional Amendment 2 will mean less congestion and better transit and ferry service for the entire Bay Area.

511 Traveler Information Service Expanding

Try calling 511 for a voice-activated, information phone service that is being activated in stages nationwide. The Bay Areaís development of the phone service is the result of a partnership between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, and dozens of regional transit operators. MTC began adapting the 511 phone system to the Bay Areaís needs over a year ago when the Federal Communications Commission granted the exclusive use of the 511 phone number to state and local transportation departments to disseminate traveler information.

Today, the Bay Area is the largest metropolitan area in the country and the first in California to offer the free phone service. Based at Caltrans District 4 headquarters in Oakland, the 511 data-collection team taps into numerous sources of information on traffic conditions throughout the nine-county region. The system also provides links to phone information centers of local public transit and ride-sharing agencies. In addition, information is provided on bicycling and airport access and parking. The number of 511 calls is averaging 3,500 per week. MTC has established a companion website, www.511.org.

Now hearing- and speech-impaired people can use the 511 information service by dialing another easy-to-remember number, 711. This development is the result of a partnership between MTC and the California Relay Service, which operates the 711 service.

New Members of Golden Gate Bridge District Board

Four new members have recently been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District.

From the Marin County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Cynthia Murray has replaced former Supervisor John Kress. Supervisor Murray has made transportation her top priority, serving as chair of the Marin/Sonoma Narrows Policy Advisory Group and as a member of the Water Transit Authorityís Citizen Advisory Committee.

From San Francisco, three new representatives were appointed to the board: San Francisco Supervisors Jake McGoldrick and Sophie Maxwell, and public representative Janet Reilly. Both supervisors McGoldrick and Maxwell are members of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

As the Golden Gate Bridge District Faces Reduced Ridership and Increase Costs, Are Increased Fares and Reduced Service the Only Answers?

The economic downturn has dealt the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District a severe blow at a time when the costs of maintaining the bridge are mounting. The answer appears to be a restructuring of bus service, particularly in Marin County, as well as a greater emphasis on high-speed ferries, possible reduction of ferry service to Sausalito, and increased fares.

Looking at costs, the Golden Gate Bridge, which turned 65 in 2001, is facing a multi-million dollar rehabilitation of the main cables and the roadway under-decking at a time when federal funding is greatly reduced. The threat of terrorism has led to a significant rise in expenses for crucial services, including security and insurance.

Looking at income, recent bus transit ridership has decreased by 7.7 percent, ferry ridership is down by 2.5 percent, and bridge traffic is down 2.7 percent.

By the end of 2001, the district made its first move toward bringing its projected five-year shortfall of $202 million into balance by increasing bridge tolls for the first time in 11 years. It should be noted that one half of those tolls is used to subsidize bus and ferry service, while the other half is used for the bridge and general administration.

This was only the first step. Without an improving economy and with continuing threats of terrorism, it has become evident that further steps must be taken. The focus has been on decreasing bus and ferry operating expenses without further decreasing ridership. Under consideration are service cuts currently being discussed and expected to be announced on March 9/10, with a possible second round of cuts in September. The emphasis will be on bus service.

The staff of the Bridge District also has proposed an "interim" program effective this July for fare increases of 5 percent on all buses, but with a higher percentage increase for ferries to bring them into "greater parity with the fares in the Bay Area market." Thus, for example, from Larkspur, one-way commuter fares would increase from $2.60 to $3.50; and from Sausalito, one-way commuter fares would increase from $2.12 to $3.00, with comparable increases for other fares. There will be a public hearing on or about April 2, with public comments to the Districtís Finance-Auditing Committee on April 24, for final approval and implementation on July 1.

For the ferry service, greater use is expected to be placed on high-speed ferries, starting this summer, after the Mendocino has been returned to service and the Del Norte has undergone dry-docking in Alameda for routine maintenance.

Efforts are underway to completely restructure bus service and to provide improved coordination with ferry service. It is anticipated that express bus service to San Francisco would be reduced, especially during mid-day, and that increased service would be provided to connect with mid-day ferry service at Larkspur Landing. And, as the number of tourists continues to decrease, there has been talk about drastically reducing the Sausalito ferry service.

A five-year fare increase program, slated for implementation in July 2004, will be developed over the next 12 months. It will be designed to maintain a fare-box recovery for bus and ferry service of 33%. In other words, a level at which the passengerís fare actually pays 33 percent of the cost, while the balance is subsidized by bridge tolls and other means.

These efforts by the Bridge District are being coordinated with Marin County, which currently subsidizes much of the in-county bus service provided by the Bridge District. The county has never considered subsiding the ferries or anything beyond in-county services. As the county looks toward a possible sales tax measure on the November ballot, however, there is a possibility that it might also consider subsidizing shuttle bus service to Larkspur Landing.

Next month, we will focus our attention on Marin County and the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transitís (SMART) proposed rail system from Sonoma County to Port Sonoma and/or a Marin destination, possibly San Rafael, Larkspur Landing, or even a new ferry terminal at San Quentin.