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  E-Mail Forum
  Of Cars, Ferries, Long Trains, Grade Separations and Transit Oriented Development
May 28, 2005


A decision by Toyota on Richmond’s offer to turn Port Terminal 3 into an additional automobile transshipment center has been delayed but is expected in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Water Transit Authority is nearing completion of its Richmond Ferry Service Land Use and Terminal Siting Study and has conveyed preliminary findings to the City Council and City Manager that point up a potential land use conflict between the area proposed for the Toyota lease and the future prospects for a Richmond ferry terminal.

This conflict has been known for some time (see Planning Crisis at Marina Bay TOM BUTT E-FORUM, April 5, 2005), but the City Council has taken no action to resolve it.

Regional Measure 2, passed by Bay Area voters in March of 2004, allocated up to $1 million specifically to “study accelerating the development and other milestones that would potentially increase ridership at the City of Richmond’s ferry terminal. There is $45 million available to develop and operate ferry service that will go to the Contra Costa city that is ready first plus another $16 million that can be shifted from other projects.

The Richmond Ferry Service Land Use and Terminal Siting Study will recommend a ferry parking area three times the size of the area that previously served the red and White Fleet Service and will require reservation of land that has been committed to Toyota, should they accept Richmond’s offer. The Richmond Ferry Service Land Use and Terminal Siting Study recommends the following:

The best ferry terminal location on the Richmond waterfront, in light of adjacent development potential, intermodal activity, automobile access, parking and vessel navigability, is the site at the foot of Harbour Way South, formerly used by the red and White Fleet ferry service in 2000.


For the Hrbour Way South terminal location, the preferred parking facility would include the southern extremity of City of Richmond Marine Terminal #3. To accommodate the demand anticipated for the initial service, parking capacity for about 380 automobiles – about 3 acres – should be provided, as close to Terminal 3 as possible.

A Richmond ferry terminal has always been a high priority in Richmond but seems to have been suddenly forgotten in the rush to maximize the Port’s car import business. Car importation has been a good fit for Point Potrero Terminal (former Shipyard 3), and Port Director Jim Matzorkis deserves credit for successfully resolving potential conflicts with the operation of Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park. I admit I was skeptical at first, but I am generally pleased with the direction this has gone.

Terminal 3, however, has serious potential conflicts that may not be so easily resolved. In addition to the conflict with a future ferry, the car importation business at terminal 3 would exacerbate the long train problem.


There is some movement on the long train problem as it relates to a grade separation, but the actual construction of a grade separation would be years away at best. 

The Request for Qualifications/Proposals for the Grade Separation Feasibility Analysis was released on April 22, 2005. There was a pre-submittal meeting May 3, 2005, and the deadline for submittal of Statements of Qualification was May 6, 2005. The Request for Proposal process began on may 16, and proposals are due June 3, 2005. It is anticipated that interviews will be held June 13 and final selection made on June 28, 2005.

On May 18, 2005, Mayor Anderson wrote to Congressman George Miller requesting some Federal funding for planning a grade separation project, and included the following characterization of the problem:

The railroad racks that bisect the City are causing major traffic problems for our citizens…Specifically the City is referring to the health and safety issue confronted by the Marina Bay and pt. Richmond neighborhoods. All acess to these neighborhoods is frequently cutoff by slow moving trains in excess of two mile sin length. The situation will be exacerbated as the City approves more residential units in these areas; our biggest nightmare is that in an emergency the only way out of the Marina would be by helicopter.

The Richmond Ferry Service Land Use and Terminal Siting Study also recommends the grade separation:

Access to the waterfront, both for residents and for ferry riders, should be improved via railroad grade separation on at least one of the arterials serving the waterfront from Interstate 580 and the rest of Richmond to the north.

There is, however, a less expensive and more immediate potential method of addressing the long train problem. On April 16, 2004, the Richmond City Council passed Resolution 62-04 directing the city manager and city attorney to file a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Surface Transportation Board requesting that the Board compel UP and BNSF to share tracks in a way that will eliminate the passage of long, through trains through south Richmond. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 2003-196 that is similar. The bad news is that neither the city manager nor the city attorney has taken any action.


The City of Richmond needs to pursue transit oriented development policies in the Ford peninsula and other properties in close proximity to the waterfront that encourage residential development which will generate ridership and enhance the financial sustainability of Richmond ferry service. The financial sustainability of new ferry service is directly related to the residential populations and commercial activity in the immediate vicinity of ferry terminals. 

What you can do:

Contact the Mayor and City Council members and ask them to:

  1. Direct the City manager to ensure that the ferry terminal location and a parking area of the size recommended by WTA is reserved.
  2. Direct the City Manager and City Attorney to follow through as directed by Resolution 62-04 to file a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Surface Transportation Board.
  3. Direct the City Manager to make sure public policy implemented by the Redevelopment Agency and Planning Department encourages sufficient transit oriented development of an appropriate density near the proposed ferry terminal location.
  4. Direct the City manager to make sure public policy implemented by the Redevelopment Agency and Planning Department encourages requires new development in the Marina bay Area to participate in a future benefit assessment district to help pay for construction of a grade separation.

You can contact every member of the City Council via email by cutting and pasting the email addresses below:

irma_anderson@ci.richmond.ca.us; mlpenn@pacbell.net; natbates@pacbell.net; GayleMcL@sbcglobal.net; johnemarquez@aol.com; tom.butt@intres.com; richard_griffin@ci.richmond.ca.us; elirapty@aol.com; maria_viramontes@ci.richmond.ca.us

Phone numbers and mail addresses of the City Council are also available at http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/government/terms.html.