Tom Butt: A Ferry Coming to Your Neighborhood? We Need Your Support

blogimage.jpgAfter years of wondering, it appears that the prospect of a Richmond Ferry is about to hit the fast track. Those of you who want to see it happen should plan to attend the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) Board Meeting on June 18, 6:00 PM, and show support by signing up to speak on the item.

The agenda has not yet been posted, but you can find it later at

At the June 18 meeting, CCTA staff will present a report on the financial feasibility of ferry service at four Contra Costa County locations: Richmond, Hercules, Antioch and Martinez. Of the four, Richmond is far and away the best choice, with potential service quicker, cheaper and highest use The CCTA Ferry study is not an action item, but it is the first of several critical steps that will lead to a Richmond Ferry, the operating cost of which will have to be subsidized by CCTA-approved Measure J funds.

The Richmond Ferry Terminal and ferry service, to be operated by WETA (Water Emergency Transportation Authority), is expected to receive CEQA clearance in the next 60 days, and the Federal NEPA document is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2014.

In the near future, WETA and the City of Richmond will begin drafting a project agreement, and CCTA will be asked to approve allocation of operating funds from Measure J. Initially, Measure J identified $45 million to be used in West County for ferry service in Richmond and Hercules. Based on the 2013 CCTA Measure J Strategic Plan, the program would generate $60.9 million over the 30-year life of the Measure.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will be asked to commit RM2 Bridge Toll Funds to purchase two vessels for Richmond.

Final design, permitting and construction of terminal improvements and vessels can begin as soon as the environmental documents are approved, and Richmond ferries could be running in as soon as two years. Terminal construction under a shred use agreement at the Ford Building is estimated to cost between $8 and $12 million, and two vessels would cost approximately $34 million.

The average annual operating cost for Richmond ferry service is estimated at $3.4 million, and the 10-year total cost at $35 million. Fare revenues are expected to cover between 26% and 45% of these costs. The balance would need to be covered by Measure J sales tax funds, estimated at a $19 to $26 million subsidy over the initial 10-year period.

New Richmond service would have passengers embark/disembark at a new terminal on the Ford Peninsula in the City of Richmond and at the existing San Francisco Ferry Building. The 2015 projected daily ridership for the Richmond service is 950 boardings.

There are a number of factors influencing the decision to implement the Richmond to San Francisco ferry service before other potential routes:

  • The capital costs necessary to construct the ferry terminal in Richmond are far lower than the other proposed expansion projects.
  • Current land uses around the Richmond terminal are supportive of a new transit service and the future development potential on the land surrounding the terminal is higher than other locations. In accordance with MTC Resolution 3434, WETA strongly considers current development and the potential for future development in prioritizing the location of future facilities and service expansions in order to encourage multimodal access to the terminal. Read more about the Richmond Ferry Terminal project.
  • Richmond has been selected by UC Berkeley as the site for a new research facility for the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, scheduled to open in 2016. Hundreds of jobs, currently located at dispersed off-site research facilities throughout the East Bay will be relocated to UC's Richmond Field Station, a 120-acre area at the southern end of Richmond's waterfront. This development, and other commercial development, creates the potential for a two-way commute market for the Richmond ferry, which could boost productivity of the service.
  • There are Contra Costa County Measure J transportation sales tax funds approved by voters to support this project which could provide $1.25 million or more annually towards operation of the service.
  • The City of Richmond is highly motivated and has begun actively exploring how to optimize multimodal access to the future ferry terminal, such as through shuttles.
  • The location of the Richmond terminal at the mid-point between Vallejo and Oakland will allow WETA to tap into an entirely new ridership market in western Contra Costa County.

The Richmond ferry service will require construction of a ferry terminal facility on the Ford Peninsula in the City of Richmond. The proposed terminal site is approximately 1.5 miles south of the Richmond downtown core, located at the southern point of Ford Peninsula adjacent to the Ford Building along an existing wharf. In general, the proposed new terminal will replace an existing ferry facility consisting of a gangway, float, ramping system and piles. The proposed terminal includes a gangway leading from the plaza adjacent to the existing wharf to a new passenger float that will be able to accommodate one vessel at a time. Ferry passenger parking is planned to for an existing parking lot to the west of the Ford Building. Other project features include an access gate with informational signage and a waiting area at the Craneway Pavilion within the Ford Building. The project includes minor reconfiguration of the existing parking lot and trail improvements in the vicinity.

Why is it important for Richmond residents and businesses to turn out at public meeting this year to support ferry service? There are ferry advocates for the far less feasible ferry locations in Contra Costa who may make ( and already have made) a political play for the limited available funding, which could delay or even terminate the Richmond ferry plan. It is essential to show strong public support.

This E-FORUM will continue to advise of meetings and other opportunities to support Richmond ferry service.

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