Richmond ferry service to begin. Are floating coffee shops next?

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September 10, 2018

By: JLL Staff Writer

Could one answer to the Bay Area’s horrendous commutes be right in front of our collective noses? It is the Bay Area, after all.

It’s seven miles as the crow flies across water from Robert Crown Memorial Beach in Alameda to the Ferry Building in San Francisco, five miles from Emeryville Marina and four miles from Middle Harbor Shoreline Park at the mouth of the Oakland Estuary.

Photo via Unsplash

Now, perhaps commuting across the Bay like this might be pushing the paddle a little too far.  After all, the average experienced kayaker can cover about three or four miles per hour in open water. That’s a long and tiring commute but, consider this: you wouldn’t have to take time out of work to go to the gym and you’d easily be burning more than twice the calories you’d burn on a leisurely walk of the same distance.

What’s old is new again

After the 1989 earthquake, ferry services around the Bay – which were very much the only way of crossing the Bay before bridges were built – went through something of a renaissance.

With the Bay Bridge closed for a month, ferry service from Jack London Square in Oakland to the Ferry Building in San Francisco was reinstated. It continues today. Ferries into San Francisco also run from Alameda (Main St. and Harbor Bay), and from Larkspur, Mare Island and Vallejo in the North Bay.  This fall, ferry service will begin from Richmond. Ferries from Oakland also run weekdays to South San Francisco.

East Brother Light Station, Victorian Bed & Breakfast in Richmond, California

Private employers have even flirted with ferries and water taxis in the Bay Area. In 2014, Google experimented with a private ferry service for its employees from the Ferry Building and Alameda to Redwood City, close their Mountain View campus. They didn’t go forward with it but, hey, maybe this is the next opportunity for Uber?

Anyone for Venice?

San Francisco wouldn’t even be a pioneer if we took our commute to the water.  Venice has had its vaporettos since the late 19th century and there are 19 scheduled lines for the little water buses. Amsterdam is known for its bicycles, and more than 1,000 bridges. but the canals used to be the main mode of transport. Parcel company DHL still delivers packages around the city using its own parcel boats.

Other cities, such as Toronto and Stockholm have recently looked to the water as a solution for commute congestion and clogged roadways.

Vik’s Wheelhouse Bar & Grill on the waterfront in Vallejo, California

San Francisco is a city known for its innovation.  So, it could be that the future of water transportation in the Bay Area won’t take any conventional route. What if the Bay had a dedicated lane for kayaks, paddleboards, even jet skis.  And what if floating artificial islands dotted around the Bay gave kayakers an opportunity to take a break, get a coffee, check their email, charge a cellphone? We talk a lot about our desire for a live-work-play environment. What could be better than morphing our commute from a work stresser into an invigorating experience for mind and body?

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