We’ve got pictures and video from the stunningly scenic Treasure Island Ferry ride, which is not exactly running on a tight schedule, and the crew often outnumbers actual passengers.
The city of San Francisco is determined to make Treasure Island a destination, which it is currently very much not. The Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island Development Project is putting 8,000 units of housing on that rock, plus the city is promising “extensive parks and open space, public art, hotels, restaurants and more.” None of these grand schemes will draw any interest unless there’s a reliable way back and forth from downtown San Francisco, and as such, the new Treasure Island Ferry service launched on Tuesday, offering $5 rides each way, and $10 round trips.
The Treasure Island #ferry has launched! This is not a part of our network just yet, but we're super excited to welcome more ferry service to the Bay!— San Francisco Bay Ferry (@SFBayFerry) March 1, 2022
Schedule and ticket info here: https://t.co/WvZ4t7zPki
So SFist hopped on for a ride Thursday morning to test the new ferry. It is always breathtaking, no matter how much of a jaded San Franciscan you are, to see Treasure Island, the bay’s cargo ships, the Bay Bridge, the SF cityscape, Alcatraz, and Angel Island from new angles and perspectives from which you have not seen them before. Our iPhone video below captures some of this, but does not do its majesty justice, and the scenery alone makes this trip worth more than five bucks each way.
But they are certainly not running a tight ship just yet when it comes to the schedule, so much so that Streetsblog has nicknamed it “Treasure Island’s Phantom Ferry.” My trip departed 15 minutes late, there was literally not one passenger other than me on the trip there, and only two other passengers on the way back. With three crew members onboard, our round trip had an equal number of crew members to actual passengers. Here’s our full assessment of the experience.
Is It Easy To Get A Ticket?
Yes, it is very easy to get a ticket. The Treasure Island Ferry schedule and tickets site is active, though not yet very high on the Google results, so Googling it will display just press releases in the top results. It’s $5 one way/$10 round trip, you can buy online or with Apple Pay or Google Pay (no service charge!) to receive a QR code, and they take cash too.
You are not riding the big blue and white Golden Gate Ferry, you’re riding that little orange and white tugboat-looking guy instead. Your email receipt will tell you to go to San Francisco Ferry Building Gate B, where the above photo was taken. Though Streetsblog complained about the lack of available signage and schedules posted, and SF Standard also noted the poor cellular service in the area which made pulling up the QR codes on the tickets difficult.
hmmm was here at 12:30 but no Treasure Island ferry at Gate B. I *think* I see something ferry-looking over at the terminal on the other side? but can’t tell for certain https://t.co/TNpxhrl3OE pic.twitter.com/foS8IfkFMk— Burrito Justice (@burritojustice) March 1, 2022
As pretty much everyone is pointing out, the schedule is not running “on schedule.” Our 8:45 a.m. ferry did not depart until 9 a.m., though our return trip departed on time.
And while the ticket site promises that the “Ferry departs every 30 minutes during weekday commuting hours,” you’ll see a few 90-minute gaps between departures during non-commute hours on the current schedule. Moreover, “commuting hours” may be a moot point on Treasure Island, as there aren’t many people working an office job out there at the moment.
How Is The Ride?
Oh the ride is kick-ass, and lasts about five to six minutes. You can sit outdoors on the observation deck (though today’s weather left the seats wet) or there are about 40 plush seats indoors next to windows. There are no amenities like coffee or beer, like there are on a Golden Gate Ferry, and do realize it gets quite cold out there on a moving boat.
Is There Anything To Do On Treasure Island?
Well… there are things to look at on Treasure Island! Like the above statue who has probably been there since the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. Otherwise, Treasure Island is currently a giant construction site, peppered with palm trees and spectacular views.
There is a Mateo’s Hot Dog and Churros cart once you get off the pier. If you wander the Treasure Island Museum parking lot, you will eventually find the Island Market & Delicatessen, which has coffee, but not very good coffee.
And coming soon is the new Woods Island Club, which is completing renovations in a space inside the iconic Administration Building, right near the ferry dock. Woods Beer & Wine Co. is opening a new taproom and production facility here, to replace both its now shuttered Oakland brewery space, and the former, mostly outdoor Woods Island Club on the other (Oakland-facing) side of Treasure Island — and the opening should be happening any week now. (See Instagram for updates, but they're saying it's opening this month.)
And they at least have a number of public porta-potties, all rarely used and very nicely maintained.
But you cannot beat the scenic views offered to you on this island, and as such, this affordable ferry completely merits a sightseeing trip. The ferry also runs on weekends.
Public transit ridership is sort of starting to rebound (There were like 12 people on my BART car this morning! It was nuts!), so this is a good time to launch the Treasure Island Ferry. They clearly rolled it out before working out the kinks, which was likely the right call given the low ridership numbers, and not letting perfect to be the enemy of good. This ferry service is good.
And it has to be good, because a BART-to-Treasure Island tunnel is not walking through that door. These grand plans of housing complexes, hotels, and restaurants on Treasure Island won’t work without reliable ferry service.
Images: Joe Kukura, SFist