State of California Approves Major Ferry Expansion Plan

Monday, October 27, 2003
The San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority (WTA), a regional transit agency, announced that Governor Davis signed Senate Bill (SB) 915 (D-Perata, Oakland) giving the WTA the green light to develop seven new Bay Area ferry routes, expand existing ferry routes, and build 31 new boats. The new law, signed on October 10, 2003, makes the WTA a permanent transit agency. The WTA is authorized to operate a comprehensive San Francisco Bay area regional public water transit system. “We are on the brink of a new and exciting future for ferries on San Francisco Bay. The State’s approval is a significant step towards delivering more boats, new routes and good landside connections,” said Charlene Haught Johnson, President, WTA Board of Directors. “We thank the Governor and Legislature. This new law brings to fruition the work of hundreds of people who’ve advocated for enhancing our region’s public transit system with water-transit,” added Ms. Johnson. The WTA’s ten-year plan recommends new ferry routes to South San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond, Treasure Island, Antioch-Martinez, Hercules, and Redwood City, and expansion of existing routes. The WTA will also study a route between the East Bay and the Peninsula, Port Sonoma and several future locations including Hunters Point, and Moffett Field. SB 915 sets new standards for the nation’s ferry industry. The WTA will use boats with advanced emissions controls that will result in air emissions 85% cleaner than EPA’s 2007 standards for diesel engines. At least one boat must run on biodiesel, a renewable fuel. The WTA already has received a federal grant to design a zero-emission fuel-cell ferry. A key component of the WTA’s future work will be to plan and coordinate ferries in emergency situations. “Ferries have a history in the Bay Area and throughout the world of assisting with emergency transportation following natural or man made disasters.“ said Tom Bertken, the WTA’s Chief Executive Officer. The WTA will update the Region’s Ferry Contingency Plan, which includes assessing the availability of vessels and terminals for civilian evacuation and transport of safety personnel. The WTA was created in 1999 by the California Legislature to produce a ten-year plan for the expansion of a ferry system and landside connections. The Plan is based on technical studies, which analyzed ridership forecasts, environmental impacts, cost-effectiveness and funding projections. The WTA’s Plan and studies are available on Governor Davis signed a companion bill, SB 916, also on October 10. It specifies a $3 billion transit spending plan to relieve congestion on Bay Area bridges and highways by funding rail, bus, ferry and other regional transit projects out of a proposed $1 increase on all state-owned bridge tolls. Voters in seven Bay Area counties will have a chance to decide on this bill when it appears on the March 2004 ballot as Regional Measure (RM) 2. If it is approved, two new ferry routes, Berkeley and South San Francisco, and two new boats for Oakland/Alameda service will be partially funded. The WTA will work with local cities in pursuing federal and local funding for the services that did not get funded in SB 916. Improvements to the San Francisco Port’s Downtown Ferry Terminal, the regional hub for ferry service, is expected to receive some funding from RM 2 and some supplemental funding from San Francisco’s county sales tax renewal slated for the November 2003 ballot.
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