San Francisco: Zero-emission ferry network in the making

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), a regional public transit agency, has secured a $14.9 million grant from the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) to develop a high-frequency battery-electric ferry network in San Francisco.

Illustration. Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Ferry

The grant will be used to fund the construction of ferries and shoreside charging infrastructure to support the San Francisco Clean Ferry Network, which will use zero-emission ferries to connect waterfront San Francisco neighbourhoods including Downtown, Treasure Island and Mission Bay.

This grant, which was awarded through CalSTA’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), is the latest in a series of grant awards that have been secured to support the new service, WETA said.

In 2020, the agency was awarded $9 million from CalSTA to design and build its first zero-emission ferry along with shoreside infrastructure. In early 2022, WETA won a $3.4 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant to add an additional battery-electric vessel to the network.

Now, the $14.9 million award will fund the construction of a third vessel for what will eventually be a four-vessel network.

“San Francisco’s waterfront is home to some of the region’s fastest-growing new neighbourhoods and this grant will help reduce traffic and improve air quality by connecting workers and residents with the country’s first high-speed, zero-emission ferry service”, said Jim Wunderman, chair of WETA’s Board of Directors.

According to WETA, the San Francisco Clean Ferry Network will be a major milestone in its transition to zero-emission ferry service.

The agency is currently completing a two-pronged study investigating both clean marine propulsion technology and shoreside infrastructure needs that will inform policy decisions going forward.

Ferries ageing out of the San Francisco Bay Ferry service will be replaced with new zero-emission vessels and WETA may also convert some current ferries to zero-emission propulsion systems over the next decade, the agency revealed.

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