Sally Schilling/Daily Journal
Ridership on the South San Francisco ferry line boomed during the BART strike but has since returned to pre-strike levels.
BART commuters stranded by the three-day strike last week spiked ferry ridership but, with the strike on hold, the new riders have returned to their regular routines, ferry officials said.
Ridership on the ferry — which comes into the South San Francisco terminal in Oyster Point near a cluster of biotech companies on the shore — seems to have gone back to normal, said Ernest Sanchez, spokesman for San Francisco Bay Ferry.
“When we’ve had issues like this, it normally returns to pre-event levels,” Sanchez said.
With low ridership since the South San Francisco ferry service began in June 2012, city officials wish more people would consider it.
South San Francisco Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto was excited about the addition of the ferry as a transit option. But while it is good for the city, ridership is still too low, she said.
“It’s a lovely line, but it just has not caught on,” Matsumoto said. “We’re hopeful.”
The ferry’s expected ridership during its first year fell below the projected 100,000 trips, Sanchez said.
Ridership has increased over the past few months due to increased public outreach by the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, said South San Francisco Mayor Pedro Gonzalez.
“People did not know that we had a ferry yet,” said Gonzalez, co-chair of the Water Transportation Advocates of San Mateo County. “I think it’s improving.”
Adding public transportation to the ferry terminal would increase ridership, he said.
“There are shuttles for the companies, but not for the public,” he said.
To encourage ridership, the ferry recently added an extra departure time for commuters who are mostly coming from Oakland to work in South San Francisco. Ridership increased with the recent addition of a departure time, Sanchez said .
“We’re anxious to see how it fares in the fall,” he said, hoping that more commuters will choose to ride the ferry when they are back to work from vacation.
Many commuters coming into South San Francisco take shuttles from the ferry terminal to their nearby offices, he said.
During the BART strike, ridership on the South San Francisco ferry line jumped. The ferry — which stops in Alameda, Oakland and South San Francisco during commute times — normally serves about 255 one-way trips per day. On July 1, 2 and 3, one-way trips were boosted to 719, 495 and 571, respectively, according to San Francisco Bay Ferry.
San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Robert Bernardo — who takes the ferry from South San Francisco to work in Oakland — was excited to see a crowd waiting for the ferry during the strike.
“There was a huge line, which was really good,” said Bernardo, who works for the Port of Oakland.
Bernardo was a member of the San Mateo County Water Transit Advocates back when it began advocating for the ferry line in 2004.
“I really want the numbers to go up because it really is the best way to commute,” said Bernardo, who enjoys drinking free coffee and reading the paper on the ferry. “It gives you the most beautiful view of San Francisco and the Port of Oakland.”
He also uses the ferry because of the free parking and affordable fares, and so that he doesn’t have to sit in traffic and contribute to air pollution.
“It’s the most stress-free out of all the transit options,” he said. “It’s just sad that not more people are using it.”
When he has talked to fellow riders, Bernardo found that the few departure times are a main concern. The one departure time from Jack London Square in the evening is 4:55 p.m., which is difficult for many workers to make, he said.
For more information on the South San Francisco/Jack London Square Oakland/Alameda ferry schedule visit sanfranciscobayferry.com.