Berkeley Marina’s first commuter ferry sets sail

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Audrey McNamara/Senior Staff

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Berkeley Marina’s first public commuter ferry service in decades set sail early Friday morning, transporting a handful of eager passengers across the calm waters of the bay to Pier 1.5 at Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Leaving from the Berkeley Marina at K Gate, the trip takes about 20 minutes in each direction. The ferry leaves Berkeley every Friday at 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., with return trips at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., and Tideline Marine Group Inc., which operates the 45-person capacity vessel, plans to expand services throughout the week as demand increases, according to a Jan. 24 press release.

The company officially secured their small-scale ferry service permit from the city of Berkeley on the day of its first scheduled crossing.

East Bay resident Kevin Goess, the first passenger to board the inaugural voyage, said he’s been waiting for a ferry service to open up out of Berkeley Marina for 18 years. Like many commuters, Goess said he typically alternates between AC Transit and BART.

“The fresh air, the excitement, and you’re not stuck in a tube underground — I don’t want to sell it too much because I don’t want to lose my seat!” Goess said.

When BART was created in 1972, it carried approximately 170,000 passengers per week. Today the system’s Transbay Tube connecting the East Bay and San Francisco supports over 60,000 people daily during peak commute hours, according to a 2016 BART Factsheet.

“Tideline’s vision from its inception has been to offer commuters and residents an attractive alternative to the ever-increasing congestion around the Bay Area,” said Taylor Lewis, founder and CEO of Tideline Marine Group, Inc. in a press release.

Without significant maintenance, BART’s train control system, train tracks, stations and other structures will be at or past the end of their useful lives in approximately 10 years. To meet these repairs, BART needs about $4.8 billion in capital investment that is currently unfunded.

“BART’s a cattle car — and it’s terrible,” said Matthew Smith, a ferry passenger as well as a UC Berkeley alumnus and West Berkeley resident.

Smith previously rode a comparably priced ferry service out of Emeryville from Prop SF ferries.

I-80 Eastbound entering San Francisco between 101 and the Bay Bridge, and I-80 Eastbound between the I-580 Interchange and Berkeley’s Ashby Avenue is one of the top 15 worst traffic congestion areas in the United States, according to the press release. Each of these bottlenecks lasts about two miles and causes an annual delay of about two million hours, wasting between 700 and 800 million gallons of gas.

Tideline plans to unveil discounts and special programs for their Berkeley customers as business picks up, including Giants tours to McCovey Cove and weekend bay lights viewing cruises, according to Dan Krokosky, director of maritime operations at Tideline.

One-way passes sell for $8, or passengers can purchase a six-pack pass for $48. A Clipper Card option is coming soon.

Contact Audrey McNamara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @McNamaraAud.