Without any fanfare at Tuesday night's meeting, Alameda City Council approved a series of agreements to make the Estuary Water Shuttle a reality.
The fact that it's three agreements in total speaks to project's level of complexity: Finding an appropriate boat that meets all federal "flag" laws, bringing it up to ADA accessibility requirements, and putting it into service between Alameda and Oakland, among other complicated steps... It's to the credit of the City of Alameda, the Alameda TMA, WETA, and the staff at all of these organizations that they've managed all these details and put together a successful set of agreements:
Bringing funding to Alameda
Despite the level of organizational complexity, the actual dollar costs to the City of Alameda are minimal. Funding the water taxi pilot is very much a collaborative effort. Per the staff report:
- "$1,000,000 in grant funding from the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC)" (ACTC is the county-wide organization that decides how to direct federal and state funds to local transportation improvements)
- "$150,000 in Measure BB Local Streets and Roads funds in FY 2023-24, as grant matching funds" (Measure BB is a county-wide sales tax that provides funding for transportation improvements)
- "WETA is providing $190,000 of in-kind service for its staff time" (The Water Emergency Transport Authority is the public organization that oversees all passenger ferries on the bay, with the exception of Golden Gate ferries.)
- "The [Alameda] TMA itself is also making a significant financial contribution of $465,000 for the two-year pilot, in addition to its staff time spent planning for the service." (More about the Alameda TMA in a previous Morning Bun blog post.)
The Bay Area is almost like the European Union with our hundreds of organizational entities coordinating services for the public. We're not, say, New York City or Chicago with a single mayor and administration. There are many downsides to our public-sector patchwork. However, in this case, we can thank close and creative collaboration by a city, a non-profit, and a special district to starting a new, useful, and cost-effective transportation service.
A collaborative foundation to build a bridge
This collaboration also speaks well to the future success of the building a permanent crossing for walkers and cyclists between Oakland and Alameda. (The water taxi pilot is meaningful step forward, but a single boat will not provide the level of 24/7 access that a bridge will deliver consistently year after year.) The Oakland-Alameda Estuary Bridge is already powered by county-level funding (not city funding). At the end of Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft mentioned that while recently in Washington, D.C., she had spoken with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttegieg about funding for the project.
There are some more steps until the water taxi begins pilot service later this spring — and there are many more steps toward a permanent bridge — but a pattern of success is already clear: When the City of Alameda collaborates with partners, outside funding can be found to deliver meaningful transportation improvements here in Alameda and for our neighbors in Oakland.
For now, here's to the approval of the water taxi agreements!
(No, I won't be showing this video to my kids :)