SF Bay Ferry touts 97 percent on time arrival rate

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97 percent of SF Bay Ferry trips arrived on time since January
Photo credit: Mike Aldax

The San Francisco Bay Ferry system completed 99 percent of its scheduled trips since January 2023, and 97 percent of those trips have arrived at their destination within five minutes of the scheduled time, according to the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transportation Authority (WETA), which operates the ferry system.

Last year, WETA launched a real-time information system powered by Swiftly to track reliability and on-time performance data. The ferry system also launched a new smartphone app powered by Anchor Operating System that allows users to subscribe to real-time rider alerts.

“These improvements helped contribute to the service’s industry-leading 99 percent customer satisfaction rating, which was reinforced in a survey earlier this year where passengers rated the system’s service reliability and on-time performance highly at 4.2 out of five and 4.4 out of five respectively,” the agency said.

When service disruptions do occur, mechanical issues on ferries are the largest contributor. Another is when ferries are removed from the water for at least three weeks for regular inspections, maintenance and repairs. Ferrries undergo even more thorough and lengthy quarter-life refurbishments every six years. 

“With 16 vessels in the San Francisco Bay Ferry fleet, this means that at least one vessel is out of service at any given time due to planned maintenance,” the agency said.

So if there is a mechanical issue on another vessel, disruptions can result, which is what occurred systemwide the week of Aug. 21, according to WETA.

Other disruptions can cam from crew shortages, boarding delays due to crush crowds, weather and ship traffic, particularly in the Oakland Estuary. Storms in January and March also caused disruptions.

“When issues do arise, WETA’s operations team and contract operator Blue & Gold Fleet work to preserve key departures by any means necessary, including swapping spare vessels into service, sending crews on additional runs on overtime, and moving vessels on and off routes to fill gaps,” the agency said.

On Wednesday, WETA announced the following commitments related to service reliability:

  • WETA will hire an independent third party engineering firm to review the agency’s engineering and maintenance program and make recommendations to minimize mechanical failures.
  • WETA is deploying additional engineering resources to expedite the repair of out-of-service vessels.
  • WETA will publish a monthly summary report of reliability and on-time performance on its website beginning in September.
  • WETA will soon deploy text message rider alert functionality that will allow passengers to subscribe to notifications based on the routes, days and times they ride the ferry.
  • Given the reality that occasional mechanical failures will cause service disruption despite these measures, WETA is developing a process to provide passengers affected by cancellations or significant delays complimentary tickets or concessions.