SAN JOSE (KPIX) — A group of business and civic leaders said Friday they’re trying to get hovercraft as a new mode of transportation to get around the Bay Area.
“They’re quiet, smooth running, they travel at very high speeds,” said Rufus Jeffris of the Bay Area Council. “Places like Alviso, Milpitas, Fremont, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, so particularly, in the South Bay where we’ve got shallow waters.”
A hovercraft, or an air-cushion vehicle, can travel in shallow waters — places inaccessible to ferries or large boats.
The Bay Area Council is pushing the Water Emergency Transportation Authority to seriously consider adding hovercrafts to its fleet of ferries. WETA is planning on discussing the idea during its meeting next week.
The idea is to get a fleet of hovercraft to travel from the South Bay all the way to Novato and even Fairfield with several stops along the way, including Palo Alto, Fremont, Foster City and Hercules.
Members of the Council said they visited England where hovercraft are used frequently and were impressed by the smoothness and speed of the vehicle.
“We’ve got horrible traffic in the region,” Jeffris said. “The Bay offers a huge opportunity, an untapped potential to provide additional transit capacity in the region.”
Commuters told KPIX they’re not opposed to adding more options of transportation to get drivers off the road.
“I mean anything that we can do to lessen traffic,” said Libby Morimoto.
She said it takes her about two hours to get to the East Bay from Los Gatos for work because of congestion.
“It’s like every six months it gets worse and worse and worse,” she said. “So I think anything would be helpful.”
Paul Westhoff said he takes Caltrain to get to work from San Jose to San Francisco but the two-hour commute has forced him to make some life changes.
“It’s quite a ways so I’m moving tomorrow to Redwood City to get closer,” he said.
The cost, environmental issues and whether hovercraft would even be viable for the Bay Area are still questions hovering over the idea, said Jeffris. He said those questions would be answered in a study if WETA decides to move forward with the project.
Although hovercraft could be the wave of the future, they were actually once the thing of our past. The vehicles used to get people from Oakland to San Francisco decades ago.
“Water transit has exploded here in the Bay Area in just the last few years, probably more than anyone would’ve imagined five or 10 years ago and that’s the result of the congestion and the traffic we have,” said Jeffris.