Plans under consideration to expand ferry service in Bay Area

LARKSPUR, Calif. (KTVU) - Ferry ridership from Larkspur tripled Friday - compared to a normal Friday - thanks to the Doyle Drive shutdown.

Ferries are growing in importance, not just for commuting, but during transportation disruptions elsewhere.

Almost since there was a San Francisco, there's been some sort of private or public ferry service for people and freight, including people in their cars.

East Bay ferries have been running since the beginning. The Golden Gate Ferry began 45 year ago as the Golden Gate Bridge became more and more a choke point.

But, it was the Loma Prieta earthquake that closed the Bay Bridge in the blink of an eye that gave ferries a clear path to the future as an emergency alternative. That was set in stone with the formation of WETA, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority which you know as SF Bay Ferry.

"WETA is required to coordinate the emergency response, the emergency water transit response to a regional incident, not just for quote ‘regional emergencies’ but also for the kinds of incidents that you'd expect in an aging infrastructure," says Ernest Sanchez of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority.

Ferries have a distinct advantage. "The ferries can come in and then, due to their ability to be quickly deployed and very efficiently deployed, really lend a hand and that's what we've been seeing more and more of in the last few years," says Sanchez.

As they have become more popular for commuters, the number of ferries has grown and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority has ordered two new boats with plans to order several more in the near future as they contemplate reintroducing service to Richmond, and new service, in the coming years to Berkeley and Treasure Island.

That means more ferries for commutes as well as for transportation system emergencies or interruptions such as the BART's Transbay Tube maintenance shut downs for several days in August and September. "And we're gonna be doubling our service between the Eastbay and San Francisco," says Sanchez.

Between them, SF Bay and Golden Gate Ferries carry well over 4 million passengers a year.