WETA seeks emergency funding to maintain disaster response capabilities

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Schedule reductions affect all WETA routes

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), which operates the San Francisco Bay Ferry service, is seeking $4 million of emergency funding from regional, state and federal sources. The emergency funding would ensure WETA can maintain critical staffing levels and remain ready to mobilize in response to a natural disaster — or to assist in the COVID-19 pandemic response if necessary — through the end of June 2020.

“WETA’s mission is not just to deliver a world-class ferry system for the Bay Area, but to deliver emergency water transit when a crisis strikes,” said Jim Wunderman, Chair of the WETA Board of Directors. “This is an unprecedented crisis. We need to remain ready to help our heroic first-responders and healthcare workers with the transportation they need. For that, WETA needs emergency funding now.”

On Tuesday, March 17, WETA cut service levels on all San Francisco Bay Ferry routes in response to public health orders directing residents to stop all non-essential travel. Local transportation demand – including ferry ridership — had fallen dramatically as residents reduced their travel. Ferry ridership had dropped 80 percent before the orders went into effect. The emergency funding WETA is seeking will replace lost fare revenue and allow the agency to maintain full readiness staffing levels through the end of its fiscal year.

WETA is currently maintaining critical ferry staffing levels so that it can provide emergency water transit. Ferry workers continue to maintain WETA’s 15 high-speed passenger ferries so the fleet is ready for immediate action.

WETA is also reaching out to hospitals to identify opportunities to assist in providing ferry transportation for healthcare workers who need it. Staff continues to coordinate with regional transportation and emergency management agencies to ensure acute needs are being met throughout the Bay Area.

WETA’s operations are funded largely by fare revenues and bridge tolls. During this COVID-19 crisis, WETA’s fare revenues, normally 60 percent of its operating budget, has dropped precipitously and regional bridge traffic is down, potentially impacting future toll allocations. There is no dedicated funding stream to finance WETA’s emergency readiness, preparation or response.

WETA’s letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and Bay Area legislators can be found HERE

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