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

All Aboard for Martinez

The Martinez Amtrak station is the cornerstone of its intermodal hub.

Situated right on the Amtrak line, the waterfront town of Martinez is just 32 miles northeast of San Francisco and about 50 miles from Sacramento. Martinez covers 12.47 square miles, with a population of approximately 37,000. Step off the train in Martinez and walk into a world removed from the hustle and bustle of anywhere. Two parks, the Waterfront Park, an active recreational area with playgrounds, bocce ball courts, softball fields, and soccer fields, and the Martinez Shoreline Regional Park, a more natural area run by the Eastshore State Park System are within a short walk from the train station, with the Martinez Marina located just beyond.

Also near the train station, visitors can discover the 1,000-seat amphitheater which houses the production of Mountain Days, the John Muir musical. The Willows Theatre Company plans to make Martinez its home base starting in 2007, with a 500-seat theatre and administrative offices.

Martinez is proud of its history as hometown to John Muir, the birthplace of Joe DiMaggio, and allegedly the first town to invent the Martini. Numerous quaint antique shops in the downtown corridor await the curious visiting shopper who wants to take home a piece of Martinez history.

Town on the Move

Newly elected Mayor Rob Schroder recently explained the vision of City leaders and residents in making Martinez an attractive destination point for a new crop of young residents and visitors by making it accessible to the rest of the Bay Area. The city's Amtrak station, an intermodal hub connecting the Capital Corridor and the Central Valley to Martinez shuttle buses, just opened within the last couple of years, and the North Concord/Martinez BART station is nearby. A shuttle bus is available to transport passengers to and from the train station and between a Marina parking area and the downtown. This is a town on the move.

Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder visited the location of a future ferry stop: the Martinez Marina.

Using the intermodal hub as its starting point, the town Council sought to create a specific transit-oriented development. Mayor Schroder said, "Martinez has great potential for transit-oriented development, linking housing and commercial use along the shoreline with easy transportation connections to the rest of the Bay Area. We're just beginning an intensive public process to involve the community in its design. Working with a starter grant of $75,000 from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for smart growth studies, we're hoping to look at high quality mixed-use commercial and residential development near our transit hub." One challenge will be relocating the industry presently surrounding the area: businesses such as an oil resurfacing company and a porta potty operation that would be better placed in a City's outlying areas now occupy this prime location.

Water Transit: The Next Stop

Mayor Schroder is delighted that the WTA has recommended a ferry stop for Martinez in its plans to start ferry service in Central Contra Costa County.

Historically, Martinez used to be a ferry stop on the way to Benicia. What better way than ferries to keep the character of a town alive while promoting smart growth?

As proposed by the WTA, the new ferry route would start in Antioch or Pittsburgh. Passengers headed for jobs in Martinez county offices could get off during a quick stop. The boat would pick up Martinez commuters bound for downtown San Francisco. The pleasurable ferry ride trip between Martinez to San Francisco would take 53 minutes, beating driving on congested freeways and the Bay Bridge. The majority of new riders would be drivers shifting from cars to ferries.

The timeline for getting the Martinez service could begin as early as 2009, with the first service up and running by 2012 if the funding falls in place and after all the environmental studies are done.

Nello Bianco who serves as Martinezís representative to the WTAís Community Advisory Committee said, "Water transportation is the last frontier. Water transit is economical and efficient. Itís a natural for Martinez as the county seat as an extension to our intermodal station."

When asked to explain the City's eagerness to develop water transit, Mayor Schroder said, "Martinez has a responsibility to help solve the regional housing and transit crisis. It is economically smart, promoting Martinez as a destination and as a place to live." From the perspective of emergency planning, he explained that water access was always a bonus for any community. "Perhaps we need to have an emergency to remind people of the importance of this project," he joked. On a serious note, Martinez not only shares the Bay Area's concern with earthquakes and the nation's concern with terrorism, but also has additional safety concerns because of the local refineries.

Mayor Schroder's most often traveled commute takes him between his home in Martinez and his family insurance business in Walnut Creek. He looks forward to the day he can take a ferry from Martinez to a Giants baseball game in San Francisco.

California State Senator Tom Torlakson, whose district includes Martinez and Antioch, said, "People are stretched so far between their home and job that they have no personal life to speak of."

Looking at New Transit Dollars

When Mayor Schroder first arrived on the City Council, approximately six years ago, the City had only $1,600 in its budget reserve. Today, it has $7 million on reserve. Mayor Schroder attributed this change to increased sales and property taxes and to taking advantage of greater efficiencies. While the future is uncertain in light of the State's budget crisis, the City Manager has asked all City departments to reduce their budget by 10 percent. Mayor Schroder said, "We're watching the budget day by day. As a City policy, we don't use budget reserves for programs, but only for emergencies."

"In terms of future transit dollars, we're banking on the Measure C sales tax reauthorization. It's very important to the county. Waterfront communities such as ours need this boost to help fund projects such as ferries." Strategically, Martinez has begun banding together with other Contra Costa counties such as Antioch to promote water transit.

 

Martinez newlyweds Phil and Mary Ellen Williamson hope to ease their daily drive to work in San Francisco when ferries are an option.