September 13, 2007
State makes grab for Vallejo and Alameda ferry systems
The San Francisco Chronicle reports Alameda and Vallejo city officials as saying they were caught off guard by a bill passed by the California state Legislature hat would turn control of their municipal ferry systems over to a new state water transit authority.
The legislation calls for consolidating existing and future ferry operations on the San Francisco Bay under one agency, except for the ferries operated by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.
The agency [the San Francisco Bay Water Emergency Transportation Authority] would have broad powers in planning, financing and operating a regional ferry system.
According to the Chronicle, backers of the bill, which is now before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say such coordination is needed because of the essential role ferries will have after a large earthquake or other disaster.
"The major threat to the Bay Area's economy is not the next dot-com bust but a natural catastrophe," said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a business-backed organization that has long pushed for an expanded ferry network.
Written by Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, and championed by state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, the bill would dissolve the existing San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority and replace it with the Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority.
The Chronicle report says the new body would have the ability to take possession by 2009 of the ferries, terminals and parking facilities used for the Vallejo and Alameda operations. It would also have the authority to set fares and schedules and adopt budgets. It would have access to state funding that's not available to the current water-transit body.
Future ferry operations also would fall under the purview of the new authority. A new ferry service between South San Francisco and the East Bay is set to begin next year, and plans are under way for several more routes in coming years.