As revamped ferry service begins this summer with a proposal to temporarily lower fares and expanded service options to entice riders, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, the transit agency responsible for ferry service, is working on scheduling changes at South San Francisco and plans for a Redwood City ferry site.

“It’s a really exciting time for water transit in San Mateo County,” said Thomas Hall, a spokesman with the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, or WETA.

The proposed 2022 Pandemic Recovery Program from WETA includes a new proposed service plan for lower fares across all transbay routes for one year, starting in July. The service plan will broaden to include more nonoffice workers and general ridership and changes to service outside peak hours, including at the Oyster Point Marina Ferry Terminal in South San Francisco. It also increases access to ferry service for riders, midday and night service levels and reduces fares to support economic recovery. Services prepandemic tended to be more expensive than other agencies and mostly met office workers’ needs in San Francisco.

Hall said WETA is considering earlier service options in the morning and afternoon for South San Francisco after feedback from businesses like Genentech. The biotech company has employees who use the South San Francisco ferry but needed earlier schedule options due to early biotech meetings with Europe’s businesses. For the afternoon, WETA is considering an earlier option than the 4:20 p.m. departure prepandemic, particularly as the 7 p.m. departure is lightly used. There is no consideration of more midday service because there is a limited ridership focused on employers around the terminal. The proposed early schedule would go into effect in October when South San Francisco service resumes.

A March 4 WETA report on the service plan said discussions with Genentech in South San Francisco found most employees will not return to work until fall at the earliest. Staff recommended a deferred restart of South San Francisco ferry service until October, with an option of restarting earlier or later depending on the ferry terminal employers’ return-to-work schedules. WETA will restart ferry service at full staffing levels for other ferry stations in July or August.

Lower clipper fares for all transbay routes are planned, with adult single-trip Clipper fares reduced at South San Francisco to $6.75 from the current fare of $8.10. Alameda/Oakland, Seaplane Lagoon, Richmond, and Harbor Bay will all be reduced to $4.50. Vallejo will be at $9. Mobile electronic ticketing fares, or Hopthru, will be aligned with Clipper fares instead of cash paper ticket fares and Clipper START fares and short Hop fares will be adjusted. Fares will automatically revert to prepandemic levels without any intervention from the WETA board starting in July 2022.

“We have a demand problem; lowering the fare is a method to increase riders and would then increase revenue,” Hall said.

WETA is currently working with Redwood City and the Redwood City Board of Port Commissioners on a possible site and ferry service within the port at the eastern end of Seaport Boulevard. The proposed ferry service would connect Redwood City to San Francisco and/or Oakland. A feasibility study accepted by the Redwood City Council found ferry service is feasible based on ridership demand, infrastructure requirements, financial capability and public benefit.

“That was a really crucial milestone,” Hall said.

Hall said the agencies would put together a business plan by the end of the year. The business plan will take a close look at terminal cost, infrastructure additions, funding options, fares, ridership and boats needed. If the business plan is approved, the next step would be an environmental review for a potential project site, dictated by the business plan’s information. Hall said WETA is not actively working on establishing other San Mateo County locations and did not have any in its strategic plan.

A virtual open house is taking place 7p.m. March 16 on the 2022 Pandemic Recovery Program, followed by several question-and-answer sessions following based on routes. A public hearing for the final program proposal and final fare program board approval is April 1. New program implementation begins July 1.

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