SF Ferries Prepare for Crunch From Bridge Closure

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Ferries on the San Francisco Bay. photo by Julie Caine

Getting into San Francisco from the East Bay might be a little more difficult than usual this weekend. The upper deck of the Bay Bridge is scheduled to be completely closed to traffic until 5 o’clock Tuesday morning, so Caltrans can do work on the new span. To help compensate, BART is adding extra trains and all-night service. But if traveling in the Transbay Tube isn’t for you, there is another option: You can take a ferry.

Before there ever was a Golden Gate Bridge or a Bay Bridge, people who wanted to cross the Bay did it by boat. At their peak, ferries carried over 46 million passengers a year.

“The Bay Area used to be built around ferries,” said Tony Bruzzone, a transportation planner who specializes in public transit for ARUP, a design firm with offices in San Francisco. “It was set up as an integrated system with trains. Piedmont and Broadway in Oakland and even Berkeley all had trains that came in and folded in where the Bay Bridge is now onto big ferry boats, and then everybody would come across on the ferry. The reason that the bridge was built in the 1930s was that people got tired of that. They wanted direct access.”

This weekend, however, some of that direct access will be cut off. KALW’s transportation reporter Julie Caine got on board a ferry to find out how one of the Bay Area’s most old-fashioned forms of transportation is poised to handle a modern commuter crunch.