This April, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District officials will debate whether to hike the cost of ferry rides for Clipper Card holders, which would raise $2 million to help close an $87 million deficit caused in part by costs associated with the Doyle Drive reconstruction. As long as the parking lot is free, this is the wrong move for the District. Charging for parking would discourage driving to the ferry terminal and encourage people to bus or carpool, freeing some of the parking lot for mid-day ferry drivers, putting more people on buses and bikes, and perhaps even boosting, rather than suppressing, ferry ridership.
Marin Transit or GGT should ensure there is a convenient bus transfer in Larkspur, however. The 15 minute, freeway-bound walk from the nearest bus pad is sometimes called the Walk of Shame, and the 29 bus from either Ross Valley or the Transit Center is about as fast as molasses on a cold day. Sausalito, also in the plan, doesn’t fare much better with the bus route but at least its connections aren’t equated with shame and embarrassment.
Long-term, the GGBHTD should partner with the City of Larkspur to redevelop its Larkspur Landing parking lot as a transit-oriented village. As it stands, it’s about as far from Market Street, time-wise, as San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood, and with the coming reconstruction of the Greenbrae Interchange and SMART station it stands to become the most transit-rich point in the county outside downtown San Rafael.
My very rough calculation, based on the findings of county-wide land values in the Tiburon Housing Element, places the parking lot’s market value at between $48 million and $55 million, assuming 45-unit-per-acre housing (roughly three or four story buildings). If the land were leased from GGBHTD, it would add around $1 million to $2 million per year of direct income, and around $1.3 million in new fare revenue, assuming transit is the primary mode of transportation for the residents. In all, it would equate to around 8 percent of the ferry’s cost.
For Larkspur, it would provide a boon in sales tax revenue from tourists and residents alike, not to mention a property tax windfall. Indeed, if density limits are replaced with height limits the units would likely be studios or one bedrooms - too small for families to put a strain on the school system, and so would boost revenues for the district without adding many extra students.
But for the moment…
For the moment, parking lot development is long-term conceptual thinking to put the ferry system on stronger financial footing. This debate is just about whether to raise the fares of ferry riders, and the answer should be a firm no. Raising the price of parking would have a number of positive knock-on effects to commuting and parking patterns at both Sausalito and Larkspur by improving parking availability for mid-day riders, encouraging carpooling, biking and busing and making more efficient use of the infrastructure we have.