Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 7, 2014

Ferry good

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point, Transportation — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

Because of the Bart strike a lot of people were forced to use the ferry as an alternative to Bart. According to the most recent WETA report after that surge in ridership due to the Bart strike, the ferries in Alameda have been able to maintain the ridership.

And just so you can see those ridership numbers here is the table comparing all the ferry lines.  Obviously the South San Francisco one sees the lowest ridership numbers, probably because transportation on the South San Francisco end is pretty spotty compared to the San Francisco Ferry Terminal.



The increase though from February 2014 to March 2014 is rather impressive for the Alameda/Oakland line.  There was a nearly 70% jump in ridership.  Which brings Alameda/Oakland’s numbers very close to the Vallejo line’s which includes bus ridership and uses a whole lot more fuel to move a similar number of passengers.

From the Executive Director report:

Both ferry terminals in Alameda have experienced a surge in ridership beginning with the first BART strike in July 2013. As a result, parking at both terminals typically spills onto adjacent streets and informal parking lots. WETA will partner with the City of Alameda staff to prepare plans to address the immediate issue and identify long term solutions. Staff has secured the consultant services of Nelson Nygaard through its on-call planning agreement with KPFF, Inc. to support the project.

After hosting a pair of public workshops in March, staff and the consultant team have been developing and analyzing potential access improvement concepts suggested by riders and other stakeholders. Staff has been invited to attend the Alameda Transportation Commission meeting on May 28 to discuss the study and the ferry service in general. The next steps in the study are to engage the City of Alameda, which has jurisdiction over streets and neighboring city-owned parcels. Another round of public workshops will be scheduled for June

While that is sort of a short term solution idea, WETA will also be examining future service plans for the possible Seaplane Lagoon relocation of Alameda’s ferry services:

City staff has requested that WETA conduct necessary studies to better understand the capital and operating cost associated with a Seaplane Lagoon terminal.

The transition agreement between the City and WETA states that staff from the City and WETA “shall in good faith work with each other and the Seaplane Lagoon master developer or other developer(s)…to explore the viability of Bifurcated Services”. The term “bifurcated services” refers to the possibility that Oakland and West Alameda will be served by separate vessels and crews, as opposed to today’s arrangement where the sites are served by a single vessel making two stops before heading to/from San Francisco.

Staff requested on-call consultants currently under contract with WETA to develop work scopes and cost estimates to conduct two studies: a sketch-level design sufficient to develop order of magnitude costs and an operational study to analyze the costs and service implications of an additional terminal or a replacement terminal in the central bay Alameda/Oakland service. This second study would require the participation of not just the City of Alameda but the City of Oakland and even AC Transit. City of Alameda
staff has reviewed the proposals for these two efforts and their comments have been incorporated into the final work scopes. The next steps are to schedule a meeting among staff at the cities of Alameda and Oakland to discuss funding the studies and a process to conduct the analyses.

I know that the ferry may take a little more time (and more money) than other transportation options, but I know that people who use it really enjoy the experience because it’s really relaxing.   It’s really good to see the numbers rising and I wonder if the switch to the Seaplane Lagoon would be better for Alameda riders because it would shave time off some of the routes if it doesn’t need to stop in Oakland first.  This table doesn’t break out the number of Alameda vs. Oakland riders, but I recall reading somewhere that the bulk of ferry riders are from Alameda.



  1. Intuition only, no hard data on this, but I have always believed a 5AM boat would be well received. There’s a good number of people in the Financial District who work on New York time.

    Comment by dave — May 7, 2014 @ 6:12 am

  2. The ferries are terrific on almost all counts except their emissions (per trip, per mile, and per passenger). Even the newest “clean” marine diesel engines that WETA has installed still produce too many nasty greenhouse gases and particulates. I hope that WETA or its successor(s) will buy and run solar, wind, and other greener propulsion systems sooner rather than later: cleaning up dirty marine diesel engines around the edges is not enough.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 7, 2014 @ 7:51 am

  3. 2. What is WETA’s reason (or excuse) for not using biodiesel?

    Comment by Richard Bangert — May 7, 2014 @ 8:09 am

  4. #3 – I believe that WETA uses a biodiesel/ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel mix, although I don’t know the exact %’s. Switching the fleet to a biodiesel blend was a goal of the City’s Local Action Plan for Climate Protection, and I believe that switch was made well before WETA took over the fleet.

    Comment by david burton — May 7, 2014 @ 8:32 am

  5. Richard, biodiesel is just not commercially practical at this point. the City of Berkeley ran all their recycling trucks on biodiesel made from recycled oil when it was in early days and they lost some engines do to corrupted batches. Biodiesel is now commercially viable enough that professional companies are vying for collection rights, and quality is consistent , but the recycled oil market is limited and the cost of the oil is more ( 30 cents a gallon) than fossil diesel. It’s dubious to turn virgin crops like palm oil into biodiesel. Straight vegetable oil without the glycerine removed requires a sort of catalytic converter and the engines must be used regularly not to have the lines gum up. Biodiesel is oil processed with alcohol. Mostly ethanol which is cheaper and easier to acquire than methanol which is like Formula 1 race car fuel. Even though all our gas has ethanol added, in biodiesel it’s about 17%. Ethanol is harmful to rubber gaskets and in diesel pumps makes the O-rings swell at greater rate than normal diesel. I understand methanol doesn’t have this dissolving property. We bought a VW diesel to run biofuel and learned that it’s not good to run more than 30% bio, 60% absolute maximum. The long and short is that it is simply not viable or feasible for commercial vehicles, at least at this stage. The new diesel in California for cars is a much cleaner formula, but I’m not sure if it is required for all diesel motors like farm equipment. AS an aside, trucks and farm equipment are being required to have upgrades to reduce particulate pollution which are expensive and are bankrupting some owners of diesel machinery. The ferries will have to conform and unlike independent truckers the money for retrofit will be there. The good news has always been the diesel mileage which is amazing.

    Comment by MI — May 7, 2014 @ 8:38 am

  6. I wonder why the numbers don’t match for “Total Passengers March 2014” in the first two comparisons, at least for Alameda/Oakland and Vallejo? I used to be a regular on the ferry, but I found the schedule too limited, particularly in the afternoon. After I discovered the casual carpool/transbay bus combination, I was hooked. But transit time and money-wise, I think the ferry is comparable to the transbay bus option, at least during regular commute times. It’s just the long gaps between ferries that makes it a problem. And from an environmental point of view, it sounds like more frequent, but emptier, ferries would not be a good idea.

    Comment by Sarah — May 7, 2014 @ 8:38 am

  7. it requires a very low percentage to call diesel bio. The Safeway at Southshore was going to sell it and it was going to be 5%, but I think consumers were freaked. I don’t think there is regulation on that language, but if WETA ferries really have a mix that is great. But at this point it seems like a feel good thing.

    Comment by MI — May 7, 2014 @ 8:41 am

  8. Effective April 28, 2014 there is a new Oakland/Alameda ferry schedule and there are a lot more ferry runs. I imagine we’ll start getting even more riders.

    Glad to see that we’re moving forward with a new ferry terminal at the Seaplane Lagoon. We’ve reached capacity – but the new schedule is a great short term solution.

    I’ve been riding the ferry for over 15 years and I hardly recognize anyone on the ferry anymore!

    Comment by Karen Bey — May 7, 2014 @ 10:07 am

  9. What’s the difference between this and the Google ferry? And what will that do to our cost of living — cost of housing — if it’s not already too late? I’m not encouraged by all the enthusiasts with nothing but advertising copy coming out of their mouths. This is not an opportunity, it’s a potential disaster for anyone renting here, and not just low income, not remotely.

    I had a conversation recently with a friend, in tears, because she’s losing her apartment and can’t find another, affordable place. This is where we’re headed, thanks so much, gung-ho Planning Dept. And Karen, I sincerely hope you rent.

    Comment by Darcy Morrison — May 7, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

  10. With the ferries you loose a lot of commute time unless you live by a Bart station. It take 20 minutes…in Alameda there is currently free parking. It is cost about the same to ride the bus of ferry…this is what a lot of people found out.

    Comment by Joseph — May 11, 2014 @ 3:58 am

  11. I’m all in support of a new efficient Ferry terminal and service however, does anyone care about the federally protected Harbor Seals that haul out and occupy the old docks by the USS Horrnet? There are about 10 seals and 4 pups. There are several locations around the former base. Their habitat should be left alone and protected. I’ve contacted zz the City Attorney, Congress woman Barbara Lee and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who enforces marine mammal protection. Any support from our Community would help. Please see article from the Alameda Sun.

    Comment by Kerry — June 17, 2014 @ 7:54 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at