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MIJ: Ferry parking a major headache
Tuesday 11 Dec 2007, 07:56
Filed under: Railroad | Tags: ,

Seems as though Marin is good about the using the ferry, but not good about using public transit to get there. Yet we trust these hypocrites to make sound environmental decisions on the railroad?

Staff Report
Article Launched: 12/09/2007 12:04:32 AM PST

THERE IS some irony surrounding the shortage of parking at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

The ferry is a mass transit success story that keeps getting better as more commuters take it to San Francisco.

Ridership topped 2 million passengers in the year that ended June 30, and another fast ferry has been ordered.

The result is a parking problem at the terminal. All 2,000 spaces – and that includes makeshift accommodations involving sidewalks and auxiliary lots – typically are occupied by 10 or 11 a.m. on weekdays. That’s been happening for more than a year, frustrating potential riders who can’t find a parking space.

Golden Gate Bridge District officials have proposed building a four-story garage to ease the parking crunch. A 969-space garage at the main parking lot would create 569 new spaces and cost $20 million. Much of the cost would be covered by the state and federal governments, but the cash-strapped district still would have to come up with several million. A $10 million structure could be built across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at the Marin Airporter, but it would be farther away and generate only 258 additional parking slots.

The cost, however, is the least of the district’s concerns.

A four-story parking
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structure will dramatically change the landscape near the terminal. The Larkspur City Council has not discussed the issue, but incoming Mayor Kathy Hartzell expressed concern last week after a bridge district committee heard about the parking garage proposals.

“There are some visual aspects to think about,” Hartzell said. “We should look at public transit first to get people to the terminal before we build something to pay homage to the car.”

She makes two good points.

Aesthetics will be a major issue. There is no way to completely disguise a four-story parking structure.

But the irony involves her second point.

The ferry is popular, but the vast majority of riders have demonstrated over the years that they won’t take shuttles or other forms of public transit to the terminal. They want to drive.

We understand why ferry riders prefer to drive to the terminal – it is far more convenient and usually faster than waiting for a shuttle in the morning and evening. Perhaps that will change as traffic congestion increases and the price of gas goes up. But don’t hold your breath.

The bridge district is shifting away from the shuttle concept. A district committee pulled the plug on a shuttle route to the terminal the same day the garage proposal was aired because of lack of ridership, what officials called the “empty bus syndrome.”

It also is ironic that a Larkspur leader would be worried about a parking garage paying homage to the evil automobile. The Larkspur City Council has been a vocal critic of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system, which is designed to encourage people to leave their cars at home. The train’s final stop would be at Larkspur Landing, where passengers would be able to walk to the ferry terminal.

What is important to remember is there is a parking problem at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal because people want to ride the ferry and not drive to San Francisco. That’s a very positive thing and a big reason why traffic flows so smoothly across the Golden Gate Bridge.

A vibrant ferry system is important and must be encouraged.

There is no question that parking structure at the ferry terminal would ease the parking crunch and accommodate the additional passengers in coming years. The bridge district is wise to get that ball rolling. But finding ways to encourage ferry riders to find other ways to get to the terminal, whether through shuttles or a commuter train, also must be a priority.

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