Last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (District) was awarded a $5.9 million grant to help acquire a new high-speed ferry vessel that will enhance service reliability for its 2.5 million annual ferry riders. The newly announced funding will help Golden Gate Ferry increase its ferry fleet to eight passenger vessels.
“With the growing popularity of ferry travel connecting San Francisco and the North Bay, increasing the ferry fleet allows more families and commuters to enjoy fast connections between home, work, and school, all while relieving car congestion on the Golden Gate Bridge,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “I was proud to join in fighting for this federal ferry grant, as House Democrats are fighting For The People to raise wages by rebuilding America with green, modern, job-creating infrastructure.”
The funding announcement coincides with a boom in ferry ridership over the last decade, evidenced by a 34% increase in Golden Gate Ferry trips since 2008. Today, Golden Gate Ferry serves over 8,500 daily riders, of which 80% are local commuters who might otherwise drive on Highway 101 and across the Golden Gate Bridge to get to work.
“With SMART rail extending to Larkspur soon, an additional high-speed ferry will ensure North Bay commuters have comfortable and reliable transit options into San Francisco,” said Congressman Jared Huffman, a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. “I am glad that the FTA is recognizing the importance of Golden Gate Ferry service with this important grant. We will continue to work across the Bay to build on this progress.”
This growth in ridership has put a strain on the existing fleet. All seven of the District’s ferries are currently in use during peak summer season, stretching the ability to perform routine maintenance and posing a challenge to the day-to-day reliability of ferry service. Earlier this year, the District leased a high-speed ferry as a stop-gap measure, but only a permanent increase to the fleet size will ensure ferries continue to run smoothly between San Francisco and the North Bay.
“Thank you to the FTA and our elected leaders for your support of expanded ferry service across the Bay. Our ferries and buses remove 20% of commute hour traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, and a new high-speed ferry will help us maintain and enhance the quality service our riders have come to expect,” said Denis Mulligan, General Manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.
The $5.9 million FTA grant will fund 20% of the $30 million cost of a new 500 passenger high-speed ferry. The District has also submitted another $18 million federal grant application to help fund the purchase. The new ferry is expected to be in service by early 2023.