Photo by Nick Lammers – STAFF
Perhaps two of the lessons to be learned from free transit on Spare the Air Days are that ferry service is too expensive and that it could really take off if it was expanded, as prominent Bay Area business leaders would like to see.
The plan would cost $500 million and combine bayside development with ferry services, hoping that the new residents will commute by water and not add to congestion on the bridges, the I-880, I-80 or U.S. 101.
What does this have to do with Spare the Air? Plenty. The mode of transit that was most popular when free rides were offered was waterborne. Now, its easy to blame day-trippers and bored house-spouses for the 500-percent jump in Sausalito ferry riders. But the Alameda-Oakland, Alameda Harbor Bay and Larkspur ferry services all saw huge spikes in ridership.
People like the ferries. Its a nice way to get to work. The problem is, as the Metropolitan Transportation Commissions Randy Rentschler explains, the ferries are expensive to operate and even with a hefty subsidy, passengers still have to pay big fares to get across the pond.
My thought is that one of the hallmarks of good transit, besides getting people to work reliably, is that it gets you there with as little stress as possible, preferably even more composed than the beginning of the trip. Cruising across the Bay seems to have that effect on a lot of people.
Still, if you can get across faster on BART, the nice ride may be dispensable. How people warm up to the existing East Bay ferries in the coming weeks will tell.