File #: 2022-2094   
Type: Consent Calendar Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 6/21/2022
Title: Recommendation to Endorse a Grant Application to the Alameda County Transportation Commission's 2024 Comprehensive Investment Plan Call for Projects for Grant Funds for the Alameda-Oakland Free Public Water Shuttle Pilot Program. (Transportation 20962740)



Recommendation to Endorse a Grant Application to the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s 2024 Comprehensive Investment Plan Call for Projects for Grant Funds for the Alameda-Oakland Free Public Water Shuttle Pilot Program.   (Transportation 20962740)




To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council




In 2009, the City of Alameda’s (City) Estuary Crossing Study recommended a water shuttle as the medium term solution to closing the gap between Alameda and Oakland in the west end. The need for a water shuttle for pedestrians and bicyclists across the Oakland Alameda Estuary (Estuary) is also recognized in the City’s General Plan, the Transportation Choices Plan, and the draft bikeway recommendations of the Active Transportation Plan.


The City’s transportation planning staff has been working with local business organizations on both sides of the Estuary and transportation agencies to initiate a public water shuttle service between the two cities. At this time, City staff, its development partners, and the Water Emergency Transit Agency (WETA) believe that funding, momentum and will are finally in place to initiate a two-year pilot program beginning in the summer of 2023. 


The annual cost is projected to be between $1.4 and $1.9 million to operate a free weekday public water shuttle program. Staff is recommending that the City Council authorize staff to proceed with a grant application in partnership with WETA to the Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC) for supplemental grant funds for the program. 




Currently, there is not adequate, safe or convenient access for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the Estuary west of the Park Street Bridge.  The City, WETA, the Jack London Square Property Management Company, Blue Rise Venture (the owners of the Marina Village Business Park), the West Alameda Transportation Management Association, and the Alameda Transportation Management Association want to provide Alameda and Oakland residents, employees, and visitors with convenient, safe, and free access across the Estuary by boat. 


The long-term solution recommended in the Estuary Crossing Study for this gap in bicycle and pedestrian access is a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, and planning for that is underway. A water shuttle can be an interim solution until a bridge is built, and could in fact continue after the bridge is built to create even more connections along the length of the estuary.




For years, the City’s transportation staff has been working to create a partnership to fund and operate a free public water shuttle service for Alameda and Oakland, and recently the pieces for this shuttle service have come together, with a high level of private sector interest and tentative financial commitments.  WETA has agreed to administer a two-year pilot water shuttle program, which would be operated by WETA or a contractor to WETA.  The proposed water shuttle program is still in the planning stages, but the service that is being planned by City staff, WETA staff, and the private and non-profit partners is envisioned to:


                     Be free to the public.  A successful service with high ridership will be easier to continue and fund after the two-year pilot.

                     Use a vessel that easily accommodates bicycles. 

                     Begin in summer 2023 and operate five days a week, Monday through Friday.  During the eight spring, summer and fall months, the service would operate for 12-13 hours each day with approximately 44 crossings a day. During the four winter months, service would be reduced to 9 hours a day and about 29 trips, enabling the longer hours during the spring, summer and early fall months, when ridership is expected to be higher.

                     Morning and evening commute services would operate between the new water shuttle dock at Alameda Landing (to be completed this summer) and Jack London Square (at Broadway).  Midday, lunchtime services would be provided between Jack London and Marina Village.


Staff proposes to apply to the Alameda CTC’s 2024 Comprehensive Investment Plan (CIP) grant program for a grant to cover 25% of the program costs, the maximum allowed.  Staff is working with private and non-profit partners to raise the remaining 75% of the operating funds.  The current projected operating costs for the five day service described above is estimated to be between $1.4 million to $1.9 million annually.  At this time, after many discussions, City staff and the City’s private and non-profit partners believe there is a very real opportunity to raise the funds and implement a two-year free water shuttle pilot program, if:


                     Alameda CTC approves the grant to cover 25% of the operating costs.

                     The City contributes $75,000 each year for a total of $150,000 over the two years.


At this time, staff is recommending that the City Council authorize staff to apply for the Alameda CTC grant funds. If the Alameda CTC grant is awarded, then staff would return to City Council to appropriate the grant funds and appropriate a potential local match of $150,000 in Measure BB funds over two years ($75,000 per year) toward the operating expenses.  If the grant application is not successful and the partnership is not able to raise the funds necessary to support a two-year program, the City’s contribution will not be needed and the City’s Measure BB funds may be used for some other transportation purpose. 




The City Council may consider a range of alternatives:

                     Approve submittal of the grant application recommended by staff.

                     Deny the request to apply for the grant.




If the Alameda CTC grant is awarded, the City will be required to contribute $75,000 each year for a total of $150,000 over the two years, likely in Fiscal Years 2023-24 and 2024-25. Measure BB Local Streets and Roads funds, which is the County’s transportation sales tax administered by the Alameda CTC, could be used for this purpose. These funds are highly flexible, but must be used for transportation purposes. If the grant is awarded, staff will return to City Council for approval to appropriate the grant funds and appropriate the Measure BB Local Streets and Roads matching funds.




The Water Shuttle Pilot program is consistent with the General Plan (2021) and makes progress towards meeting all four of the goals in the Mobility Element, which are as follows:


Equity: Provide for the mobility needs of all Alameda residents, workers, and visitors regardless of income, age, ability or neighborhood.


Safety: Eliminate fatalities and severe injuries on Alameda’s streets, sidewalks, crosswalks and trails by 2035.


Choices: Expand and improve alternatives to low occupancy automobile trips to incentivize mode shift to more environmentally sustainable modes of transportation while recognizing the diverse needs for mobility.


Sustainability: Reduce the impacts of transportation systems on the environment, and transition to a more resilient transportation system to address the impacts of climate change.


Furthermore, General Plan Policy ME-15 Estuary Crossings states: “Work with Oakland, Alameda County, Caltrans, the Alameda County Transportation Commission, the State of California, the US Coast Guard, and other local, regional and federal partners to improve and ensure the maintenance and safe operations of Alameda’s existing bridges and tubes, and improve bicycle, pedestrian and transit access between Alameda and Oakland.”


Policy ME-15 Action (d) states: “Water Service Shuttles. Work with the Alameda Transportation Management Association, WETA and Oakland stakeholders to develop and support water shuttles or provide short-hop service between Oakland and Alameda.”




Application for grant funds is not a project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Furthermore, the project does not include the construction of any new physical structures.  




Vehicle miles traveled is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Alameda. Providing a public water shuttle service will create a comfortable, enticing and safe opportunity for people on foot and bike to cross the 1,000 feet of water that separate west Alameda from Oakland and the rest of the region, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by solo motorists. 




Endorse the City of Alameda’s grant application to the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s 2024 Comprehensive Investment Plan Call for Projects for grant funds for the Alameda-Oakland free public water shuttle pilot program.  


Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Thomas, Director of Planning, Building and Transportation

Rochelle Wheeler, Senior Transportation Coordinator


Financial Impact section reviewed,

Margaret O’Brien, Finance Director



cc:                     Dirk Brazil, Interim City Manager