Richmond residents welcome new ferry service to San Francisco
on February 22, 2019
A month into the new ferry service between Richmond to San Francisco, residents are thrilled. Already, some 635 commuters a day—more than expected—are using the 35-minute service between Richmond and the Embarcadero.
“It’s clean, easy, there are no homeless people and it’s faster than BART,” said Yu Matsu, a Richmond resident who now takes the ferry daily to get to work in the Financial District. It costs her $6.75 one-way on a Clipper Card, compared to $7.50 on BART.
“I’ve been taking it since it started,” said Parminder Gill, Matsu’s neighbor who also works downtown. Before the ferry, he drove from Marina Bay to the El Cerrito BART station where he also paid $4 for parking. The latter is free at the ferry. “So far the ferry has never been delayed. BART is always delayed,” he added.
Thomas Hall, the marketing and public information manager for Water Emergency Transportation Authority, the service’s operator, said their main goal was to get people off the I-80 highway. “We wouldn’t expect to take people off of BART,” he said in a phone interview. “BART has a wider system and is much more established. Our main goal is to take people off the roads.”
The Richmond Ferry Terminal is located next to Rosie the Riveter museum. A boat casts off every weekday starting at 6:10 a.m. and return trips begin at 5:15 p.m. Schedules are available here.
With two tiers, wide train-like seats, Wi-Fi and tables, the ferry promises a comfortable ride and windows offer a view of the bay. Passengers can get coffee and doughnuts in the morning, or chips and beer in the afternoon when happy hour runs from 4 to 8 p.m.
On Monday, Patt Mooney, the lead deckhand, opened the gate ten minutes before departure. One by one passengers walked on as a rainbow became visible. Selfies ensued.
Connor Wishard, a regular commuter, locks his bike in one of the twenty slots available on deck. He lives in a sailboat in Marina Bay and takes the ferry every day. “I love it,” he said. “I used to bike down to Berkeley Marina and then take the water taxi to the city.”
Wishard said he usually got tired and sweaty from the 21-mile round trip. “Taking my bike on BART was very challenging,” he added while snapping a photo of the rainbow. “It’s so crowded that you keep bumping into people. Not the way I want to start my day.”
From Embarcadero, Wishard rides his bike to San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, where he works in a metal shop.
Mary Lin, 50, waited for months for the service to start. “Times don’t usually match for me,” said Lin, who works at Blomingdale’s. “I often have to be at work by noon, but today is my early shift.”
“I love it,” said Karla Soumala. “The ferry drops me right across the street from work, and when I get there I don’t smell like pot”—the way she does from secondhand fumes on BART trains.
Even though the BART station is closer to her house, she said, traffic is so bad it actually takes less time to go to the ferry terminal. She has been waiting for the ferry service to start for more than three years. “It was a big selling point when we bought our house, so I’m very happy it’s finally here,” she said.
For some, the ferry offered the promise of more safety than BART. Aina Mazarigos, 27, lives in Point Richmond and works in the Financial District at an accounting firm. “I used to ride the BART a lot, but after what happened with that girl I prefer the ferry,” she said referring to 18-year old Nia Wilson, who was killed at Oakland’s Macarthur BART station in July, 2018. “In here I feel safer, it’s more controlled,” she continued. “Employees watch what’s happening and there’s less people coming in. It feels like a pretty chill ride.”
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said the ferry service might be a game-changer for the city’s waterfront, where there are a couple of big housing projects underway. Butt is a big fan of the new commuter service. “I love ferries,” he said during a phone interview. “It’s the only way to commute that is fun.”
This story was updated on February 27, 2019 to correct the one-way fare price.
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