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File #: 2016-2719   
Type: New Business
Body: Transportation Commission
On agenda: 3/23/2016
Title: Comment on the Water Emergency Transportation Agency (WETA) Strategic Plan and Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal Plan
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal Plan (Exhibits A-Q), 2. Exhibit 2 - WETA Draft Strategic Plan, 3. Exhibit 3 - Staff Comments to WETA Draft Strategic Plan

Title

 

Comment on the Water Emergency Transportation Agency (WETA) Strategic Plan and Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal Plan

 

 

Body

 

Transportation Commission

March 23, 2016

Item 5D

Action

 

Comment on the Water Emergency Transportation Agency (WETA) Strategic Plan and Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal Plan

 

BACKGROUND

 

On February 25, 2011, the City of Alameda (City) and the Water Emergency Transportation Agency (WETA) executed a Transition/Transfer Agreement (Agreement) and the Alameda/Oakland (Main Street) and Harbor Bay Ferry Services were transferred to WETA on April 29, 2011.  The Agreement provides for continued operation of the existing ferry vessels and waterside facilities under the management of WETA, and continued operation of the City’s landside ferry terminal assets by the City, with reimbursement from WETA.  The Agreement also acknowledges the City’s desire to have ferry service to San Francisco from Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point and sets forth that WETA and the City will work together in good faith to establish a Seaplane Lagoon ferry service and to explore the viability of such a service.

 

In June 2015, the WETA Board adopted a System Expansion Policy <http://sanfranciscobayferry.com/sites/default/files/weta/currentprojects/ProposedRoutes/SystemExpansionPolicy.pdf> that states a service averaging 80 percent occupancy or higher during the peak hour would justify a service enhancement.  It is anticipated that peak period service increases within the limits of available funding will be needed over the next few years to maintain board-adopted service standards. 

 

On June 16, 2015, the City Council approved a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) with the private developer, Alameda Point Partners, LLC (APP) for the Site A Development at Alameda Point, consisting of a 68-acre mixed-use project at the gateway of Alameda Point.  As required by the Community Reuse Plan, General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, Alameda Point Master Infrastructure Plan, and the Transportation Demand Management Plan, the Site A development includes robust transportation strategies and programs to minimize the significant transportation impacts associated with Alameda Point redevelopment and reuse.  One of those strategies is the construction of a ferry terminal in Phase 1 of Site development with the APP contributing $10 million.

 

The WETA Strategic Plan presents a vision for the next 20 years of ferry service in the San Francisco Bay Area and sets out the policy framework needed to realize that vision, which includes Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal as an expansion service.

 

DISCUSSION

 

This staff outlines the Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal Plan and highlights the issues in the WETA Strategic Plan which are important to the implementation of a Seaplane Lagoon Service for which WETA will operate once constructed.  Staff is soliciting comments from the Transportation Commission for both the Ferry Terminal Plan and WETA’s Strategic Plan to ensure a strong framework and vision for a successful ferry expansion in Alameda. 

 

A.                     Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal Plan (Exhibit 1)

The proposed Ferry Terminal at Seaplane Lagoon would operate as an addition to the existing ferry terminal at Main Street, not a replacement. Currently, the Main Street Ferry Terminal is a combined service from the Oakland Terminal across the estuary to San Francisco. Peak time ferry service demand at the Main Street terminal is reaching capacity and overall ridership rose 14% per year from July 2012 to July 2015 (WETA Short Range Transit Plan, 2016).

 

The proposed addition of a second ferry terminal in western Alameda would help to reduce traffic congestion in Alameda both by expanding transit options as an alternative to vehicular trips and by dispersing vehicular trips to access ferry transit between two western Alameda ferry terminal locations.

 

a.                     Ferry Location (Exhibit A of Exhibit 1- Ferry Terminal Plan) -The location of the new ferry terminal was planned carefully to minimize conflicts with recreational users within the 110-acre Seaplane Lagoon.   It’s location at the foot of Pacific Avenue and immediately to the right as boats enter the Seaplane Lagoon was selected for its minimization of conflict with other uses and the maximization of space for recreational use.  The terminal is anticipated at most to occupy approximately 33 acres of the 110-acre Seaplane Lagoon, during the times it is entering and leaving the Lagoon, with 70 percent of the overall Seaplane Lagoon area available for other uses. Another key driver in the location and design was to avoid dredging.

 

b.                     Improvements - While the ferry terminal is located south of the Site A property, APP will construct the ferry terminal based on WETA standards as part of the Phase 1 Site A development and provide interim landside improvements as described below.  As Site B is developed over time, permanent landside improvements will be phased in according to the Town Center and Waterfront Plan.

 

                     Waterside Improvements (Exhibit B of Exhibit 1 - Ferry Terminal Plan)

o                     Abutment and pier at entrance to terminal to provide secure entry to the pedestrian gangway

o                     A gangway will connect the pier to the boarding float; the length of the gangway will be determined by tides and accessibility needs at this location

o                     A boarding float for entering and exiting the ferry vessel, which will be held in position by an arrangement of pipe guide piles and fender piles

 

                     Landside Improvements and Circulation (Exhibit C thru Q of Exhibit 1- Ferry Terminal Plan) -Improvements and circulation elements included in Site A development and phased over the development horizon as envisioned in the Towne Center and Waterfront Precise Plan

o                     Shoreline repairs or modifications, if necessary, where abutment ties into shoreline

o                     Parking facilities for 400 vehicles at a temporary location

o                     Passenger drop-off and pick-up or “Kiss and Ride”

o                     Public access path connecting Site A to the terminal

o                     New bike access routes and bike parking

o                     Bus stop for drop-off and pick-up at the entrance to the ferry plaza

 

c.                     Ferry Plan Implementation - Due to the long lead time needed for permitting, upon City Council approval of the Ferry Terminal Plan, the following activities will commence. 

o                     Terminal Design/Permitting - Third party consultant (Moffat & Nichol) has been hired by the City to prepare preliminary (30%) designs required for permit applications and HT Harvey will lead the permitting process  

o                     Landside Improvements - APP’s design team, led by April Philips Design Works, will prepare landside drawings needed for permitting

o                     Construction - In accordance with the Alameda Point DDA, APP will oversee the construction of both landside and waterside construction.

o                     Operation - WETA will be responsible for operations of the ferry according to the terms laid out in the Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Service Project MOU.

 

Upon receipt of the necessary permits, construction is anticipated to begin in summer 2018 with completion of the terminal in the first quarter of 2019.

 

d.                     Funding Needs - Under the DDA, APP will contribute $10 million towards the construction of the Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal, which is a significant step towards making the increased ferry service at the west end of Alameda a reality, but it still falls short of the full cost to construct the ferry terminal.   

 

An operational subsidy will be required, as well, to initiate and sustain Seaplane Lagoon ferry service to fund the excess of operating expenses over revenue generated by passenger fares, parking fees or other service-generated revenue.

WETA and the City will collaborate in seeking regional and other funding sources for operational subsidies for WETA ferry service at Seaplane Lagoon, including any funding from a potential regional funding measure.

 

Other possible funding sources include:

                     Future regional funding source (bridge toll or gas tax)

                     State Proposition 1B

                     Measure BB

 

B.                     WETA Strategic Plan

 

In January, WETA released its draft 20-year Strategic Plan (Exhibit 2) which is the result of a planning process that began last year with a series of workshops of their Board and stakeholder meetings. The Strategic Plan comes at a pivotal period in WETA’s history, with rising ferry ridership driven by a strong regional economy and focused job growth in San Francisco which has made the ferry as a transit option more popular than ever.  Between 2012 and 2015, the Alameda/Oakland service has increased 71 percent and the Harbor Bay service grew by over 30 percent.  This rapid increase in ridership has caused crowding, strained capacity and parking issues.

 

Staff previously submitted initial comments to the WETA on the Strategic Plan (Exhibit 3) due to the timeline for comments and the schedule for Transportation Commission. 

 

Ferry Emerging Trends

 

The Strategic Plan identifies several emerging trends that will be critical to shaping WETA service:

                     System Demand -Projections for economic growth in the Bay Area - and for job growth in San Francisco in particular- are robust, while capacity on both BART and the Bay Bridge will continue to be limited, suggesting that barring significant changes in the local economy, recent positive trends in ferry ridership will continue. 

                     Funding Challenges - Long-term prospects for meeting growth in demand for ferry service is limited due to insufficient operating and capital funding.  Roughly half of WETA’s operating funds come from the Regional Measure 2 (RM2) Bridge Toll program.  That amount of funding is fixed at $15.3 million annually and does not have provisions for escalation due to increases in expenses or inflation. The long-term need to expand services and maintain an operating reserve will be a pressing concern in the future.

                     Partnerships - The continued operation of the ferry service is a partnership between WETA and funding agencies and the funding structure will require new partners to keep growing to meet demand.  One of the new partnerships is with the development community, helping to bring transit to underserved or isolated waterfront communities.  Partnerships will also be required between funding entities such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, cities, counties and ports to ensure operating and capital funding is sufficient to meet the system’s demand.

                     Response to Emergencies and Transportation Disruptions - WETA plays an important role in coordinating transportation response for both scheduled and unscheduled road/bridge closures, natural disasters and emergencies or network disruptions.  Building capacity through expansion and service enhancement will strengthen WETA’s ability to help the Bay Area recover from emergency events.

 

WETA’s Strategic Priorities

 

The following Strategic Priorities support the vision of an enhanced and expanded ferry system in the San Francisco Bay Area.

1.                     Provide quality ferry transportation service

2.                     Expand ferry service in San Francisco Bay

3.                     Achieve financial sustainability

4.                     Be a responsible steward of public funds

5.                     Respond to natural disasters and disruptions to the Bay Area’s transportation network

6.                     Ensure safe and secure ferry operations

7.                     Seek continuous environmental improvement

8.                     Reach out to all population, reducing barriers to ferry ridership and serving the larger Bay Area community

9.                     Ensure WETA has the organizational capacity to manage and expand ferry services, according to the strategic direction of the Board of Directors

10.                     Provide leadership for the continued operation and expansion of ferry service throughout the Bay Area.

 

BUDGET CONSIDERATIONS/FISCAL IMPACT

 

There are no financial impacts to this report. 

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Provide comments on the Seaplane Lagoon ferry plan, and provide comments in addition to staff’s initial comments, on WETA’s draft strategic plan.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Jennifer Ott, Chief Operating Officer - Alameda Point

 

By,

Michelle Giles, Redevelopment Project Manager

 

Exhibits:

1.                     Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal Plan (Exhibits A - Q)

2.                     WETA Draft Strategic Plan

3.                     Staff Comments to WETA Draft Strategic Plan