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File #: 2024-3577   
Type: Consent Calendar Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 2/6/2024
Title: Recommendation to Authorize the City Manager to Execute Three Agreements to Implement the Estuary Water Shuttle Pilot Project: (1) Agreement between City of Alameda and San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority for Shuttle Operations, (2) Lease Agreement between City of Alameda and Big Yellow Boat, LLC concerning the Vessel to be Used for Shuttle Operations, and (3) Funding Agreement between City of Alameda and Alameda Transportation Management Association to Transfer Financial Contributions from Private Businesses and Associations to the City of Alameda. In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this action is exempt from environmental review under the Common-Sense Exemption: "Where it can be Seen with Certainty that there is No Possibility that the Activity in Question May Have a Significant Effect on the Environment, the Activity is Not Subject to CEQA" (State CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3)). (Planning, Building and Transportatio...
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1: Map of Planned Water Shuttle Service, 2. Exhibit 2: Operations Agreement, 3. Exhibit 3: Lease Agreement, 4. Exhibit 4: Funding Agreement

Title

 

Recommendation to Authorize the City Manager to Execute Three Agreements to Implement the Estuary Water Shuttle Pilot Project: (1) Agreement between City of Alameda and San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority for Shuttle Operations, (2) Lease Agreement between City of Alameda and Big Yellow Boat, LLC concerning the Vessel to be Used for Shuttle Operations, and (3) Funding Agreement between City of Alameda and Alameda Transportation Management Association to Transfer Financial Contributions from Private Businesses and Associations to the City of Alameda.

In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this action is exempt from environmental review under the Common-Sense Exemption: “Where it can be Seen with Certainty that there is No Possibility that the Activity in Question May Have a Significant Effect on the Environment, the Activity is Not Subject to CEQA” (State CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3)). (Planning, Building and Transportation 20962742)

Body

 

To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

 

From: Jennifer Ott, City Manager

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

This report follows a June 2023 report where City Council accepted and appropriated $1,000,000 in grant funding from the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) and appropriated the City’s $150,000 contribution for a two-year water shuttle pilot program. Since early 2022, the City of Alameda’s (City) transportation planning staff has worked with a partnership of private businesses and associations in Alameda and Oakland, and the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) (the “Partnership”) to initiate a free public water shuttle service between Oakland and Alameda. Together, the Partnership met regularly and developed a plan for a two-year limited pilot program that will be funded primarily with private funding, along with grant funding and City funding. This free water shuttle service, operated by WETA, will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and bike-accessible and is expected to begin service in late Spring 2024.

 

To facilitate implementation of this new service and ensure that it begin in late Spring 2024, staff is recommending that City Council authorize staff to enter into three agreements:

1.                     Agreement with WETA to operate the service; and

2.                     Agreement with Big Yellow Boat, LLC (BYB) for BYB to lease a vessel to the City to be used for the service; and

3.                     Agreement with Alameda Transportation Management Association (TMA) to transfer the private financial contributions to the City.

 

BACKGROUND

 

The need for a water shuttle for people to easily cross the Oakland Alameda Estuary (Estuary) is recognized in the City’s General Plan, Transportation Choices Plan and Active Transportation Plan. Its implementation is prioritized in the City’s Strategic Plan. Efforts to start a water shuttle service gained traction in early 2022, as private businesses and associations indicated they were willing to help fund the service, waterfront developments neared completion, and WETA indicated it would take the role of operator. The City assembled and began meeting regularly with a partnership of WETA, the TMA, CIM Group (Jack London Square’s property management company), Jack London Improvement District, the West Alameda Transportation Management Association, and Blue Rise Ventures (owners of the Marina Village Research and Business Park), with the goal of planning for a service that is free and convenient to users, ADA accessible and easy for people with bicycles to use, and also best meets the needs of the Partnership members.

 

Through this collaborative work, in June 2022, the City with City Council authorization, submitted a $1 million grant application to ACTC to fund 25% of the operating costs for a two-year water shuttle pilot, with the remaining $3 million (75%) to be covered by water shuttle partners. In May 2023, the ACTC awarded the City a $1 million grant for the two-year pilot, and in June 2023, City Council accepted and appropriated the grant and City funds.

 

In December 2022, the Partnership began working to develop a summer 2023 pilot water shuttle service, with the goals of building community interest and better understanding user needs and preferences for the two-year program. WETA administered a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to find an operator, and the Partners secured the needed funding. However, of the two operators that responded to the RFP, neither could provide a boat that was ADA accessible and suitable to serve the identified landing docks, which is a requirement for the service. The Partnership quickly pivoted to determining how to secure a boat for the two-year pilot that would meet the unique needs of this service.

 

DISCUSSION

 

Since mid-2023, the key stakeholders have met regularly to plan the service in order to meet the late Spring 2024 pilot service start date. Significant progress has been made, as described below.

 

Planned Pilot Service

While the water shuttle service details are still being finalized and are dependent on many factors, including the final private contributions amounts, and testing the vessel in the water to determine run times, the current draft plan is as follows:

                     Launch service in late Spring 2024 and run through late Spring 2026.

                     Operate between two docks: the City’s Bohol Circle Immigrant Park dock at the foot of Fifth Street, which has a dedicated water shuttle service area, and the public dock in Jack London Square at the foot of Broadway in Oakland (see map in Exhibit 1). If the pilot period is successful, then additional locations of public, ADA-accessible docks will be considered based on interest and available funding.

                     Operate a minimum of four days per week, and up to five to six days per week, depending on funding. The days of the week and times are still to be determined, but will include weekday and weekend days. Ridership will be monitored and users will be surveyed, which will allow the service to be modified during the pilot program to meet demand, as funding allows. During the spring, summer and fall months, the service would operate for more hours each day than during the winter months, enabling longer operating hours when ridership is expected to be highest.

                     At this time, the total project base budget, for four days of service, is anticipated to be $2.68 million, which can be covered by the existing committed contributions and grant funding. If additional funds are secured, these resources will be used to expand the service hours and/or days.

                     While the initial project budget was estimated to be $4 million for two years, the revenue from businesses has fallen short of what was originally expected. At the same time, the project costs are also slightly lower than expected. It is possible that the full $1 million ACTC grant will not be used, since it can only fund a maximum 25% of total costs. The Partnership continues to work to secure additional funding.

 

WETA Role

WETA will operate the service with a private contractor, using the boat leased to the City, and will manage the contractor and maintain the boat. Additionally, WETA is providing $190,000 of in-kind service for its staff time and will invoice the City for the cost of operations. Lastly, WETA will also provide support for marketing the service.

 

These roles are set forth in the attached Agreement between WETA and the City (Exhibit 2). The WETA Board approved this Agreement at its November 2, 2023 meeting.

 

BYB Role

In October, a new entity created by the TMA, called Big Yellow Boat, LLC, purchased a 45-foot pontoon boat with a roof, which will be used for the service. BYB owns the vessel and is responsible for paying for boat modifications before service begins. BYB will lease the vessel to the City at a fair market rate.

 

These obligations are set forth in the attached Agreement between BYB and the City (Exhibit 3).

 

TMA Role

The TMA, via a separate agreement, will collect all of the committed contributions from the business associations and individual businesses, and make payments to the City on a regular basis. The TMA itself is also making a significant financial contribution of $465,000 for the two-year pilot, in addition to its staff time spent planning for the service. The TMA will also support the marketing of the pilot program.

 

These obligations are set forth in the attached Agreement between the TMA and the City (Exhibit 4).

 

City Role

Via the Agreements described above (and further defined in Exhibits 2,3 and 4), the City will:

                     Receive and assemble all of the project funding, including the private and grant funds, and use this funding to pay WETA for operations and pay BYB to lease the vessel.

                     Provide the vessel to WETA at no cost, to operate the service.

                     Commit $150,000 to fund the two-year operation, as previously authorized by Council.

                     Manage the ACTC grant and request reimbursement for 25% of the expenditures.

                     Allow WETA to use the City-owned dock at Bohol Circle Immigrant Park.

                     Secure, with WETA’s support, the right to use the dock at Jack London Square.

                     Secure the required Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) permit.

                     Continue to be the project manager for the overall pilot program, bringing together the key partners to successfully implement the pilot program.

 

Roles of Other Partners

Funding commitments have been made to date by the TMA, West Alameda TMA, CIM Group (Jack London Square’s property management company) and Jack London Improvement District. Contributions from several other entities are under discussion. The Partnership continues to seek funding from additional partners, an effort that will continue throughout the pilot program service, in order to provide the most robust service possible.

 

Additionally, the partners have committed in-kind contributions of their time and a berthing space for the vessel.

ALTERNATIVES

 

                     Approve staff recommendations and authorize the City Manager to execute the three Agreements.

                     Recommend modifications to the terms of one or more of the Agreements. Modification to the terms will require the parties to agree to the modifications prior to execution. 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

The City Council previously appropriated $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023-24 from the ACTC grant award, towards the two-year pilot program, and $150,000 in Measure BB Local Streets and Roads funds in FY 2023-24, as grant matching funds, for the two-year pilot service. All additional operating costs will be covered by the Partnership. No additional funding is requested. However, as noted above, the ACTC grant covers up to 25% of the project expenditures. The project budget may need to be reduced if private contributions do not meet the funding target.

 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

The Water Shuttle Pilot program is consistent with the General Plan (2021), the Active Transportation Plan (ATP, 2022), and the City’s 2023 Strategic Plan.

 

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.”

 

The ATP’s 2030 Infrastructure Plan includes Project #9: Estuary Water Shuttle Operations and calls for launching a pilot service by 2024.

 

The City’s 2023 Strategic Plan (Fiscal Years 2023-2026) includes a project to “Implement a free public Water Shuttle pilot program on the west end” (#TIE7).

 

This action is subject to the Levine Act.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

A Program Environmental Impact Report for the Expansion of Ferry Service in the San Francisco Bay Area was prepared by WETA and certified in accordance with CEQA (State Clearinghouse #2001112048).  No further environmental review is required under Public Resources Code section 21166 and Section 15162 of the CEQA Guidelines. The funding and operational agreements are also exempt from environmental review under the common-sense exemption: “Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA” (State CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3)) because they do not directly result in any physical change in the environment.

 

CLIMATE IMPACT

 

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 less than 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. 

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Authorize the City Manager to execute three agreements to implement the Estuary Water Shuttle Pilot Project: (1) Agreement between City and WETA for shuttle operations; (2) Lease Agreement between City and Big Yellow Boat, LLC concerning the vessel to be used for shuttle operations, and (3) Funding Agreement between City and TMA to transfer financial contributions from private businesses and associations to the City.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Allen Tai, Director of Planning, Building and Transportation

 

By,

Rochelle Wheeler, Senior Transportation Coordinator

 

Financial Impact section reviewed,

Margaret O’Brien, Finance Director

 

Exhibits:

1.                     Map of Planned Water Shuttle Service

2.                     City-WETA Operations Agreement

3.                     City-BYB Vessel Agreement

4.                     City-ATMA Funding Agreement