Future of Google's ferry service uncertain

Google employees who have been commuting by ferry to and from Silicon Valley will take their last ride on the water today when two pilot programs come to an indefinite end.

A five-day pilot program arranged with the Water Emergency Transportation Authority that started Monday has been offering ferry rides from Harbor Bay in Alameda to Redwood City for Google employees who work in Mountain View, according to the authority, which runs the San Francisco Bay Ferry.

That ferry program is in addition to a 30-day pilot program that started Jan. 6 with rides between San Francisco and Redwood City for Google employees.

Both of those programs, which are free for employees, are scheduled to end Feb. 7.

A Google shuttle in Redwood City has been connecting employees to the Mountain View campus.

WETA executive director Nina Rannells said at a board meeting today that she would be meeting with Google officials next Thursday to hear about the ferry experience and find out if Google plans to continue with a ferry program in the future.

Under the program, there have been two departures from San Francisco each morning and two return trips, while from Alameda there is one morning departure and a return trip in the afternoon, she said.

She said it is not certain if the Google ferries will continue to run but that the authority is "very interested in the opportunity."

WETA board member Jeff DelBono said at the meeting at the WETA offices on Pier 9 that he has received many emails about the pilot programs.

He said some people were worried that parking at Harbor Bay was filling up more quickly while the Google ferry was running. Other feedback was mostly positive, he said.

A Google spokeswoman said the ferry trials were an effort to get employees to work in new ways aside from private buses chartered by the company.

"We certainly don't want to cause any inconvenience to Bay Area residents and we're trying alternative ways to get Googlers to work," according to a statement by the search engine company.

Google officials will evaluate the trial programs and decide if the ferries should become a permanent option.

Under an agreement with WETA for the pilot programs, Google is paying WETA $275 per ferry landing and renting private chartered boats to carry the passengers.

The ferry service was arranged to not interfere with regular ferry routes and schedules for the public, Rannells said.

Google riders are also not allowed to park in the Harbor Bay ferry parking lot or on nearby streets, Rannells said.

Google has provided a designated lot where employees are instructed to park and a Google shuttle brings riders to the ferry dock, according to Rannells.

Recently, Google and other tech companies have come under fire in San Francisco for providing private commuter buses for employees. Critics claim the buses disrupt public bus service and lead to higher housing costs in the city.

— Bay City News Service


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