Commuters in the Bay Area will soon have two new choices if they decide to take the ferry to work.
PROP SF is expecting to launch its commuter service at the beginning of 2017 with routes connecting Berkeley and Emeryville in the East Bay with Redwood City and Pier 15 in San Francisco. Tideline plans to be in the water within the next 30 days with a single route between Berkeley and Pier 1 1/2 in San Francisco.
"We are faced with a growing traffic congestion challenge here in the Bay Area that we're all aware of," said Ernest Sanchez, spokesman for the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), which oversees San Francisco Bay Ferry. "The opportunity for PROP SF and Tideline to offer another option for commuters is welcome."
Ferries have long been a part of the Bay Area transit scene, but their popularity has waxed and waned over the years. Recently, commuter demand for ferries has been on the rise. The Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Ferry systems carried around 15,000 passengers on an average weekday in 2015, up nearly 50 percent from the beginning of the decade. San Francisco Bay Ferry will expand service to Richmond in 2018 and Treasure Island in 2022.
PROP SF's CEO and founder James Jaber said the company's 36-passenger ferry could carry as many as 760 commuters a day. Tideline's three boats could handle more than 1,400 daily passengers at maximum capacity.
The fares from those riders will be the only source of revenue for these private companies, as opposed to the publicly subsidized Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Ferry systems. PROP SF will cost riders between $8.50 and $20 for a one-way ticket, depending on the route, and Tideline president Nathan Nayman said round-trip fares on the Tideline Water Taxi will run between $15 and $20.
Nayman said Tideline will start with just one boat running only on Fridays while Jaber said PROP SF will be running ferries Monday through Friday. Both companies plan to expand beyond their initial offerings, including using their smaller boats to access parts of the bay that the large public ferries can't reach.
"Our vision is to see a plethora of these vessels moving up and down the bay to alleviate this congestion," Nayman said.
But Randy Rentschler, director of legislation and public affairs at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), doubts that the additional ferries will have much of an impact on traffic.
"The ferries are concentrated, they're very boutique, they're relatively small," Rentschler said. "For the people who get them it's great, but as far as a significant congestion relief across the Bay Area, it's just not what they do."
He pointed out that ferries accounted for less than 1 percent of transit tracked by the MTC in 2015.
PROP SF plans to run eight routes between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The morning Tideline ferry between Berkeley and San Francisco will run between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. The first afternoon ferry will leave Pier 1 1/2 in San Francisco at 4 p.m., and the final boat will leave San Francisco at 7:30 p.m.