GGBHTD responds to my series on ferry parking

A couple of months ago, I wrote a four-part series on Larkspur Landing’s parking and access problems. I discussed the possibility of a parking district, a shuttle, transit-oriented development, as well as the constraints on the terminal’s passenger capacity. When the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District (GGBHTD) called for comment on access to the ferry terminal, I summarized the first two into a two-page letter, complete with cost/benefit table, and sent it to the Board and staff.

Last week, I got a response from GGBHTD responding to some of my proposals. Here’s what they sent me:

Dear Mr. Edmonson [sic]:

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (District) is in receipt of your letter, dated April 23, 2013, addressed to the members of the Board of Directors, expressing your concerns relative to the “Strategic Vision for the Golden Gate Ferry Larkspur Service (Strategic Vision.” Staff has researched the issues you raise din your letter regarding your assessment of unused parking in the vicinity of the larkspur Ferry Terminal, and your interest in a shuttle from San Rafael Transit Center (SRTC) to the ferry terminal.

With regard to parking in the vicinity of the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, the Larkspur Station Area Plan did identify a large amount of surface parking at the various parcels within a radius. However, the examination of that parking was looking in the context of increasing the density of the existing surface spaces. These surface parking spaces were identified for future opportunities to provide for mixed use development and structured parking opportunities. Presently, these parking spaces are needed by the various commercial tenants on these properties. Staff has communicated with various property managers in the area who indicated that their office occupancies are in the low ninety percent range and rising. Although the District did lease some surface spaces many years ago, property managers indicated that they could not consider that possibility at this time, due to their rising demand.

With regard to the shuttle form the SRTC to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, limited parking in the vicinity of the SRTC would be a barrier to its use. The District operated a midday ferry shuttle from the SRTC to and from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal during 2007 as a demonstration project that, unfortunately, was not successful. Among the reasons cited for passengers not using this service were lack of parking in the vicinity of the SRTC and the inconvenience of using other Golden Gate Transit routes to access this shuttle, due to the need to transfer twice to reach the ferry.

As you may be aware, the Board of directors (Board) approved adoption of the Strategic Vision at its meeting of May 10, 2013, with the understanding that staff would bring individual projects forward to determine cost, feasibility and implementation on a case-by-case basis. The Strategic Vision includes both near-term strategies to address current increasing demand, as well as longer-term strategies to allow for the capacity for ridership to continue to increase. Both parking considerations and a possible demonstration project to test the reinstatement of a ferry shuttle route in the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard corridor will be brought back to the Board for review and possible action this summer.

Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns and for your interest in the District’s Strategic Vision.


James C. Eddie
President, Board of Directors

I’m glad they took the time to talk with local parking owners, as that would be the easiest way to address the parking crunch, but it’s a disappointment that they were asked whether they’d be willing to lease spaces to the District instead of participate in a parking district. A parking district gives owners control over how many spaces to have available on a daily basis, whereas a lease locks up spaces for years. Though the SMART parking survey showed there would be enough space even with 100 percent occupancy, it’s understandable that parking owners wouldn’t want to risk their parking spaces with a lease.

The 2007 shuttle from SRTC failed not because of little parking, though that would be a problem for some, but because it competed with free parking at the ferry terminal. But no matter. Marin Transit will service the Ferry Terminal via SRTC come next year, and the ferry shuttle along Sir Francis Drake will be accompanied by paid parking at Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

Overall, I’m happy the staff took the time to look into the issues I raised, or at the very least to draft a coherent response. It means they are taking public input seriously, and it validates citizen technical activism. That’s a pattern other agencies, especially SMART, should take note of.


About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

11 Responses to GGBHTD responds to my series on ferry parking

  1. Richard Hall says:

    Dave – I’m glad you received a reply. Their reply validates my concern that Transit Oriented Development and urbanization advocates continue to push for unrealistic real world solutions. I am also glad that the board recognized common sense.

    – presuming that the Larkspur Landing mall parking spots could be used for ferry overflow parking assumes current retail and business tenants would be willing to forego these spaces, spaces that generate business for them

    – the shuttle failure due to lack of parking and connections that would extending people’s commute

    While I respect and applaud your ideas and passion, the transit board is where Utopian ideas meet the real world. Now working with the real world constraints / realities we can begin to talk about realistic solutions.

    I applaud you for presenting ideas, but ultimately I feel reassured by this response that the Golden Gate Highway and Transportation District is in good, safe hands that recognizes realities, surveys, listens to and serves its riders.

  2. David, as usual your thought process goes deeper than most and your vision sees further out into the future, treating our challenges with long term solutions, not knee jerk reactions.

    I really liked your term “Technical Activism” as it really supports the public in taking an active role in their local communities other than just complaining and wagging their fingers at electeds. Which is what many do, without supplying constructive honest ideas, providing no movement to more inclusive solutions.

    The Corte Madera highway project is just one great example of “Technical Activism” with the public coming forward with a great number of well thought out alternatives from which we can pick the best elements of each proposal. Of course these processes might prove costly, but the community would feel as they are really in partnership with those they elect.

    But, we need to be careful not to confuse “Technical Activism” with “NIMBY Activism”, the two are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

    It warms the cockles of my heart to see Richard Hall give so much respect to the “transit boards” perhaps he is seeing value in their plans that recognizes realities, surveys, listens to and serves its residents.

  3. Richard Hall says:

    Jimmy – we’re in agreement. This demonstrates a great partnership of elected officials and the community after a series of failures.

    We do need to be careful not to derail an otherwise healthy dialog with name calling and accusations.

    I have great respect for well run community input processes. We need more of those around here.

  4. Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco

  5. Richard Hall says:

    I also received a letter from the GGBHTD this morning. In my letter they mention:

    “The first demonstration project would add a 7:30am Larkspur to San Francisco crossing five days per week; and the second demonstration project would test the viability of a re-instituted ferry feeder bus in the Ross Valley/Sir Francis Drake Boulevard corridor…The two demonstration projects are expected to be brought forward to the Board in July”. If approved then in early Sept they would commence for a trial period of nine months.

    The Ross Valley shuttle sounds good provided there is parking near the shuttle pickup points. However a shuttle from the SR bus terminal doesn’t pass the common sense sniff test – connecting from a bus to a shuttle to a ferry…and perhaps another form of transit in SF seems a stretch.

    They are also exploring identifying leasing of unused land that could be leased to increase surface parking, consider instituting a parking fee and preliminary design and engineer a parking structure.

    Again I feel very reassured by GGBHTD’s response and I applaud them.

    • The idea is an easy transfer from all most of the county’s bus routes, which would give people the most flexibility (a 5-minute transfer isn’t terrible; I do such a thing often). However, given that most of the ridership comes from the SFD corridor, I think that shuttle will do fine.

      I’m definitely a fan of the 7:30am departure. Hopefully the overflow buses haven’t been needed since they started that.

  6. Valerie Taylor says:

    The failure of the midday shuttle has nothing to do with parking, and has everything to do with the fact that no one takes the boat in the middle of the day. I honestly believe that the midday bus routes were put in place because they have extra vehicle and driver capacity at that time, so they decided fo put them on the road midday. But midday ferry ridership is extremely light. Why would that tiny number of passengers take a bus to the boat?
    So that pilot was not a test of ferry shuttles.
    It seems we’re all agreed now that paid parking+shuttles is the right combination to reduce auto traffic and parking demand at Larkspur. I would like to see the parking revenue applied to the shuttle service, and the shuttles use Clipper to tie the services together. This way the shuttle could be free for ferry riders, just as the ferry and Muni service is currently linked ($0.50 discount for ferry riders).

  7. Richard Hall says:

    I agree on many points. The shuttle remains unvalidated (I was not specific to midday shuttles) and a pilot to see if it’s viable sounds like a good idea. Goals should be set in advance with set criteria that must be met. (E.g. goalposts should not be lowered or be a moving target decided at the end of the pilot). Seen how that game plays out…

    There still needs to be more parking at the ferry terminal nonetheless.

    • Valerie Taylor says:

      No, there does not need to be more parking at the ferry. What we need is fewer cars. This can be achieved by providing safe and pleasant bicycle and pedestrian connections, transit timed to the boats, and putting the SMART station at the ferry boarding area where it belongs, in conjunction with charging for parking. begin to make it easier and cheaper to get there using modes other than the auto.

      • Richard Hall says:

        Let’s agree to differ.

        Not everyone can take bikes or transit for very practical reasons (age, distance from bus stops, additional connecting time, dropping kids on the way to school, picking up groceries on the return, convenience…). In fact I would argue far fewer can bike or take transit than you believe.

        Transit usage per capita in the Bay Area, despite increasing investments in rail (VTA Light Rail, BART extensions…) has steadily dropped since 1980. What makes you believe that this trend will reverse? (And I don’t buy increasing gas prices, I’ve seen how that plays out in Europe – people will pay $10 a gallon and still drive and jobs are increasingly decentralized in business parks).

        Cars emit less greenhouse gases than the SMART train when considering the locomotive lifespan midpoint, CARB/Pavley 2 enacted legislation… – I’ve covered this in a detailed article.

        Even giving SMART the benefit of the doubt in numerous areas – it’s highly questionable ridership numbers, buying into their ambitious claimed 1.1mpg fuel efficiency, ignoring the CO2 emitted by the massive construction exercise, and deadheading trips to depots – SMART generates 3x the CO2 emissions of equivalent cars and light trucks.

  8. Valerie Taylor says:

    The mid-day shuttle from the SRTC failed because there is little to no demand for the Marin to SF ferry service at that time of day. There has never been a legitimate pilot of shuttle service from the north to the ferry. I think they had some extra buses and drivers at that time of day and decided to “utilize” them by driving to the ferry. In quotes because it’s not much use to go when/where there is no demand.

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