Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Planes, trains, and automobiles

BART is so full that they are paying people to stay away.

The freeways are so clogged that rush hour begins before 5:00 AM and lasts until after 9:00 PM.

What's left?

Well, there are the ferries.

As well, there are new trains, that run TO the ferries.

The Bay Area has always had ferries, but it's also always seemed rather under-served by them.

So it's interesting to see some recent progress in this area:

  • With Crowds Flocking to Ferries, Agency Adds New Runs
    “The ferry service, like so many transit agencies in the region, is carrying more and more people,” said Ernest Sanchez, marketing manager for San Francisco Bay Ferry. “The demand on the system is substantial and is beyond what we expected to happen, so what we’re trying to do is take our 11 boats and get them assigned in the most affective manner.”

    Bay Ferry has also redirected routes to create a direct 4 p.m. trip from San Francisco’s Pier 41 to Alameda, then Oakland.

    But the changes will only make a small dent in demand that shows no sign of waning.

    “The numbers are going to be small,” Sanchez said, adding the new runs amount to a temporary fix while the system awaits longer-term expansions, like two new 400-passenger boats expected to hit the Bay next winter.

  • Alameda breaks ground on $49 million ferry operations center
    Ferry service representatives joined local and state officials Thursday for the groundbreaking of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s new $49 million operations and maintenance center.

    The event, which featured wine and live music under a tent at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, also was a tribute to Ron Cowan, the Alameda developer who helped spearhead the creation of the ferry system.

    Construction of the center, which will be named after Cowan and will be located at Ferry Point Road and West Hornet Avenue, has already started with underwater work and is expected to be completed in 2018.


    A regional public transit agency, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority operates ferries on San Francisco Bay under the “San Francisco Bay Ferry” brand.

    Originally known as the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority, it was established in 1999 and has 12 boats on four routes that visit eight terminals. The goal is to have 44 vessels on 12 routes with 16 terminals by 2035, according to WETA officials.

  • Water taxi service approved for SF-Berkeley runs
    Tideline is one of two private water taxis to get the OK to run scheduled trips across the bay. The other is Prop, which plans to have service to Berkeley, Emeryville, San Francisco and Redwood City in early January.

    “We have an untapped waterway,” said Prop CEO James Jaber. “Unlike the bigger lines, we can offer cities an inexpensive look at public ferries without a 10-year, multimillion-dollar commitment on their part.”

    Unlike the publicly subsidized ferries, which have boats that hold up to 400 passengers, the smaller taxis hold about 40 commuters or less.

  • Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit: FAQ
    If SMART doesn’t go to San Francisco, isn’t it a “train to nowhere?” SMART will connect to Larkspur, across the street from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, providing access to San Francisco. It’s important to recognize, however, that most of the traffic on Highway 101 in the North Bay is not bound for San Francisco.

    Commuting patterns in the 21st Century are much different from those of 50 years ago. The vast majority of North Bay commuters on Highway 101 are going to jobs in Marin and Sonoma Counties, and the number of commuters to San Francisco is shrinking. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission projects 130,000 new jobs along the Highway 101 corridor in Marin and Sonoma between 2000 and 2025 – none of which will require a North Bay commuter to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Far from being a “train to nowhere,” SMART is a train to where the jobs are, and where the people are.

  • San Rafael, Novato grapple with SMART quiet zones
    Kevin Fitzgerald, a Federal Railroad Administration official, said SMART is going through a checklist as it gets ready for service.

    “The start date could be Dec. 1, or it could be next year,” he said.

  • Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit grinds through tech challenges
    So far, SMART has spent roughly $460 million, according to Gamlen, and purchased 14 cars. Operated as two-car sets, the system will have seven sets. The doors and cars were designed in Japan. BART systems cost about $120 million per mile. Light rails costs about $50 million a mile. “We are running about $10 million a mile,” he said, excluding any costs for acquiring right-of-way.

    There are four passing sidings, where dual-track sections allow northbound and southbound trains to pass. The longest stretches about two miles; the track so far runs 43 miles. Dispatchers, operating somewhat like air-traffic controllers, line routes and can direct trains onto passing sidings as needed. If schedule changes occurred, a train could be held on a passing siding for another train to go by.

    An estimated run time will be just over an hour from Sonoma County’s airport to San Rafael. “We have yet to run a train from end to end at planned speed,” Gamlen said. “All this stuff is still in test mode.”

Well, you know what they say:

"A bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office"
Go ferries!

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