Service enhancements designed to boost ridership on the struggling South San Francisco ferry line were approved Thursday.
Launched last year amid much fanfare, the ferry system — which currently carries passengers between South City and the East Bay — only averaged 175 daily boardings last month, less than half the projected total. It has a farebox recovery rate of just 8.4 percent, meaning nearly 92 percent of its $3.4 million annual operating budget is subsidized by taxpayers who don’t use the system.
To help improve those numbers, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, which manages the ferry, unanimously approved a plan to add one more afternoon trip to the East Bay and two weekday routes to San Francisco.
Kevin Conley, program director for the authority, said opinion polls have found that the dearth of evening trips and scheduling inflexibility have been main contributors to the service’s low ridership.
By adding a 5:20 p.m. departing trip from South City to the East Bay, and two midday routes on Wednesday and Friday to San Francisco, the authority hopes to attract more commuters, school groups and senior passengers.
The new service, set to begin at the end of the month, will be accompanied by an aggressive marketing campaign, Conley said.
Anthony Intintoli Jr., the vice chairman of the authority’s board, said it took two years for the fledgling Vallejo ferry service — which now has a strong farebox recovery rate — to achieve respectable ridership numbers. He noted that daily ridership on the South City line has improved recently, from an average of 131 in January to
196 on March 27.
“I really hope with this additional effort we’ll be able to reach the expectations we’ve set for ourselves,” Intintoli said Thursday.
The service enhancement will cost $228,000, which will come out of the authority’s operating budget.