Bay Area Ferry Finances Underwater

A new ferry service from Oakland to South San Francisco, launched nine month ago at a cost to taxpayers of $42 million, carried only 131 riders a day during the last week of February. The ferry operates with a $2.3 million annual taxpayer subsidy, but in its first seven months collected only $145,300 in fares.

What is the bureaucratic reaction to this fiasco? Subsidize even more ferry runs!

The Water Emergency Transportation Authority wants to spend $230,000 to add a third ferry run from South San Francisco to Oakland in the afternoon, and twice-weekly trips from the San Francisco waterfront to South San Francisco, as a draw to tourists.

This is a good example of outrageous estimates of ridership made by the government transportation cabal to get added funding. In starting this service, the ferry authority estimated there would be 100,000 passengers a year. Even at that level of ridership, the cost to subsidize the service would have been $47 per ride.

With ridership projections for the proposed bullet train on the overly optimistic side, the ferry situation may serve as an early warning of future fiscal problems. (Source: Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle, March 17.)

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