WETA's New Ferry Enters Service in San Francisco
A new high-speed passenger vessel entered service for the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) on Monday.
The newbuild, Dorado, is the first in a series of four new ferries being built for WETA by Mavrik Marine in La Conner, Wash. Construction on the second vessel in the Dorado class, Delphinus, is underway.
Vessel construction was funded through the Federal Transit Administration and the State of California’s Proposition 1B in collaboration with the California Office of Emergency Services. The ferry was designed by One2Three Naval Architects, and construction management services were provided by Aurora Marine Design.
“WETA is building a world class ferry system for the Bay Area and adding new vessels like MV Dorado helps us get there,” said Jim Wunderman, Chair of the WETA Board of Directors. “This American-made ferry enhances the capacity of our fleet and provides additional flexibility for our operations, helping ensure we run the system as efficiently as possible. It also happens to be a beautiful ferry. We thank our local, state and federal partners for their investment in San Francisco Bay Ferry service.”
Dorado carries 320 passengers and will enter initially service rotating among WETA's routes to collect operational data and allow passengers across the ferry system to experience the boat, the agency said.
Dorado is the fastest vessel in WETA’s fleet with a service speed of 36 knots and it is the first boat built for WETA that can safely dock at any of the system’s 12 ferry terminals. The vessel has expansive outdoor passenger space to allow more riders to experience a fresh-air trip across the Bay.
WETA and the Port of San Francisco opened the expanded Downtown San Francisco Ferry Terminal in August 2020. The $98 million project tripled ferry berthing capacity and included the construction of a new 13,000-square-foot public plaza south of the historic Ferry Building.
“Expanding ferry service and water transit options are critically important to our region,” said Elaine Forbes, Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco. “The addition of the MV Dorado to WETA’s fleet will improve the region’s public and water transportation network that provides efficient, relaxing and scenic alternatives to car transport.”
San Francisco Bay Ferry was the fastest growing transit operator in the region prior to the pandemic, with more than 3 million passengers in 2019. Between 2012 and 2019, ridership on the system doubled.
Under WETA’s Pandemic Recovery Program, which took effect in July 2021, ferry ridership is steadily growing. The Program decreased fares 30% across the system and enhanced service to provide more flexibility for riders. In April, ridership on San Francisco Bay Ferry reached 55% of pre-pandemic levels, outpacing comparable regional agencies.
“The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has long identified the San Francisco Bay Ferry service as an important regional priority,” said MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. “With the launch of the Dorado, WETA is making a great service even better.”
Dorado is the ninth U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 or Tier 4 equivalent passenger ferry in WETA’s fleet. In 2017, WETA commissioned the nation’s first Tier 4 equivalent high-speed passenger ferry, Hydrus. In 2019, WETA commissioned the nation’s first Tier 4 certified high-speed passenger ferry, Pyxis. Last month, WETA re-entered Pisces into service after a conversion project replacing the vessel’s Tier 2 engines with cleaner Tier 4 engines.
WETA is expected to begin work on the agency’s first two zero-emission passenger ferries this year.