From San Francisco Bay Ferry. They have heard your complaints.
March 25, 2016
An Open Letter to Our Valued Vallejo Passengers
I would like to take a moment to speak with you about the challenges facing San Francisco Bay Ferry in general and our Vallejo/San Francisco service in particular. As commuters we are all well aware of a dramatic increase in congestion on Bay Area roads and bridges, and on public transit resulting from the Bay Area economic recovery. Last year, SF Bay Ferry ridership totaled more than 2.3 million riders: a 19 percent increase over the prior year. The Vallejo/San Francisco service alone increased 8.2 percent, carrying a record 847,600 passengers. This has led to crowding and leave-behinds on some peak-hour departures. We expect these challenges could continue through the summer peak season. The good news is that two new 400-passenger vessels are already under construction for the Central Bay routes. Their arrival (the first in December and the second in April 2017) will provide some extra ferry system passenger capacity. In addition, we have issued a Request for Proposals for three new 400+ passenger Vallejo-type high speed boats that should be available to support Vallejo and Richmond service starting in mid-2018. I should note that one of these vessels will replace the retiring M.V. Vallejo. The bad news is that, until the new vessels arrive, our service offerings will be limited to what we can provide with the existing fleet.
As you may know, the SF Bay Ferry fleet consists of 11 vessels operating on four routes around the San Francisco Bay. All of the fleet is fully deployed in the effort to accommodate the surging demand across all our routes. The Vallejo ferry operates with four vessels: three 320+ passenger boats and one 267-passenger back-up boat (the M.V. Vallejo). In addition, a 199-passenger Gemini boat may back up the Vallejo service when available. The M.V. Vallejo is in regular service only when one of the larger vessels is off-line as is now the case, with the M.V. Intintoli off-line for maintenance until mid-April. The M.V. Vallejo will return to scheduled service in late April for approximately four weeks when the M.V. Mare Island and M.V. Solano take turns in the shipyard for scheduled maintenance ahead of the peak summer season.
When the M.V. Vallejo is in service for the afternoon schedule, we endeavor to assign it to Ferry Building departures that have the lowest average ridership, given that it has at least 53 fewer seats than the bigger boat it replaces. That is why it is usually assigned to the 3:30 PM and 6:00 PM Ferry Building departures. Recently the 6:00 PM Ferry Building departure on the M.V. Vallejo has been at or near capacity on several days. While reaching capacity is not a predictable daily occurrence, effective immediately we will contract a charter bus to back up the 6:00 PM vessel departure. The 6:00 PM back-up bus will be available each weekday through April. Starting with the summer schedule on May 2nd, there will be a scheduled 5:30 PM ferry departure from the Ferry Building, in order to address the anticipated additional seasonal demand.
The bottom line is that the Vallejo service four-vessel fleet has limited carrying capacity and that carrying capacity will not significantly increase until new Vallejo-type vessels begin arriving in mid-2018. That is why we use buses (Route 200 and charter) to provide additional carrying capacity.
Buses: We provide bus service via the regularly scheduled Route 200 (operated by Solano County Transit (SolTrans)) and on-call back up buses provided by Soltrans or by private charter providers (e.g., Coach 21). In addition to back-up for the 6:00 PM Ferry Building departure discussed above, we will back up the 3:30, 4:30, and 5:15 PM boat departures for all eleven S.F. Giants weekday afternoon games. Finally, we will continue to monitor vessel passenger loads throughout the day and make every effort to secure additional bus back-up as needed.
Summer Schedule: The summer weekday schedule going into effect beginning May 2nd will provide new 5:30 PM and 8:15 PM ferry departures Monday-Friday from the Ferry Building and new 8:00 AM and 6:45 PM departures from Vallejo. We also are in discussions with SolTrans on possible modifications to Route 200 service that would better serve ferry customers.
We will continue to use every resource available to us to serve you. Thank you for your patronage.
WETA/San Francisco Bay Ferry