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Richmond’s first Ferry Fest debuts this weekend with free cruises

on June 7, 2022

With more bay shoreline than any other city in the Bay Area, it’s natural that Richmond has had a long association with ferries. Before the Bay Bridge was built, the ferry from Richmond to San Francisco was the most direct way to commute back and forth to the city. 

Richmond’s original ferry service stopped in the 1950s, and besides a short-lived ferry in the 1990s, Richmond did not see another ferry until San Francisco Bay Ferry launched its Richmond Ferry service in 2019

To celebrate that service and give people a chance to experience it for themselves, SF Bay Ferry is hosting the first Ferry Fest from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Richmond Ferry terminal. The featured event will be free 25-minute ferry rides along the shoreline. 

“We feel that every kid that grows up here should have the opportunity to get on a boat at some point,” Thomas Hall, spokesperson for SF Bay Ferry, said.

Hall said SF Bay Ferry wants to ensure that even people who don’t use the ferry to commute to San Francisco every day or don’t have the opportunity to use the ferry often, know that it’s an option. It also wants people to know about Richmond’s weekend service, which is year-round for the first time. 

Rebuilding ridership

Before the pandemic, the transit agency was the fastest growing in the Bay Area in terms of ridership, according to Hall. Ridership for the Bay’s entire ferry system doubled from 2012 to 2019, partly because of the Richmond Ferry’s success. 

“Really beat expectations by a big margin,” Hall said. “Then the pandemic hit and our ridership decreased by 90%, pretty much overnight.” 

On March 16, 2020, Richmond Ferry service was suspended as COVID-19 spread across the region and nation. Three months later, it resumed on a reduced schedule so that essential workers living in Richmond could use the ferry to commute to San Francisco. 

As with other forms of public transportation, ferry ridership has crept up but not rebounded. The biggest increase has been in the number of people using the ferry to and from Richmond.

“Ridership was small and growing, but it’s currently at more than 70% of pre-pandemic ridership throughout the week,” Hall said. “It’s been a really good, bright spot over the past year.”

The inaugural Richmond Promise 5K will be happening at the same time as Ferry Fest, starting and ending at the Craneway Pavilion next to the Richmond Ferry terminal. Registration is open through Friday, with day-of registration also an option. 

“We’ve been letting participants know that once they cross the finish line, they’ll be just steps away from the Ferry Festival,” Catherine Collins, spokesperson for Richmond Promise, said. “We’d love to have them stick around and enjoy the music, food, and meeting other community-based organizations and small businesses that are coming out to table.”

Bike East Bay also will be there, hosting a “Bike Rodeo,” a free bike-safety class for kids. Children will need their own bikes. People also will be able to bring their bikes onto the ferry.

Ferry Fest is free and includes food trucks, live music, raffles, and giveaways. The terminal is at 1453 Harbour Way South, by Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park.

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Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

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