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Ferry Me Home


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Chalk up a quasi-victory for public transportation—albeit a wet one. There’s a new alternative to the tiresome commute on clogged Interstate 5 between downtown San Diego and Oceanside, and it doesn’t involve trying to make sense of the Coaster train schedule (though it’s not cheaper than the train).

A $3.25 million high-speed ferryboat that, until recently, was used for marine research trips off the coast of Hawaii has been rechristened The Oceanside Wave and deployed to transport up to 149 passengers each morning and evening between their North County homes and San Diego workplaces.

“We’re targeting frustrated I-5 users who are sick and tired of the long commute,” says Michael Winn, director of development for SCX Inc., which in October 2001 was awarded a $5 million agreement by the San Diego Unified Port District to get the project off the ground—er, off the dock—for a trial run. The year-long experiment is funded through Governor Gray Davis’ Traffic Congestion Relief Program.

Initially, the hydrofoil will make two trips daily. The Oceanside Wave departs the newly built Dolphin Dock at Oceanside Harbor at 6:30 each morning for the hour-long voyage to the existing San Diego ferry dock at the foot of Broadway. Departure time for the trip back is 5:30 p.m. (The March 3 debut was dampened for the nearly 60 passengers when the return leg was cancelled due to electrical problems. Service resumed, with just a handful of riders, on March 12.)

“We’re only starting with one trip in the morning and one in the evening, because this is really more of a demonstration service,” Winn says. “But we intend to expand the service as soon as we get a rhythm going.”

Ideally, he says, boat trips would be spaced 15 minutes apart, with service ultimately added to weekends—and perhaps extended all the way up to Marina del Rey. “Those are our long-range plans,” Winn says. “We’re working on a tourist route, for people who might want to go up to the Getty Museum.”

But for the time being, he says, “Our idea is simply to show that this concept works—and if we do that, we will find private financing to buy a fleet of 11 boats.

“It’s transportation, but it’s fun, too—and that’s really the key. If you’re going to spend two hours a day commuting, wouldn’t you rather do it a fun way? The ocean is a little different every day. I think it’s quite an experience.”

The Oceanside Wave is equipped with a bow hydrofoil that partially lifts it out of the water as it jets up and down the coast at speeds of up to 40 knots (46 miles per hour). It features a computerized ride-control system to take the bumps out of the ride, even in choppy seas, and offers a fully air-conditioned main cabin and outside deck where commuters can sip coffee and munch on snacks while gazing at the ocean and shoreline—instead of grinding their teeth and cursing the drivers in front of them.

A one-way fare is $10; round-trip tickets are $20. Commuters may also buy a monthly pass for $300. The price includes parking in Oceanside and shuttle service in San Diego—aboard Cloud Nine Shuttle—to downtown, Mission Valley, Point Loma and the 32nd Street Naval Station.
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