2018 Census of California Water Transit Services

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2018 Census of California Water Transit Services


The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics conducts a nationwide census of ferry boat operators for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the collected information is used for statistical purposes. The Caltrans Division of Local Assistance has been asked by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to gather data regarding ferry operations under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21 includes a new formula program for ferry boats and ferry terminal facilities eligible under 23 USC 129(c) which authorizes federal participation in toll roads, bridges, tunnels, and ferries. FHWA has asked that Caltrans assure the ferry boat data is current for MAP-21.

The Mineta Transportation Institute was initially contacted by Caltrans to conduct this census in 2012 and a report was delivered later that year. Now the census has been completed with updates through November 2018. The research team collected information from 25 water transportation operators throughout California and produced 42 accompanying maps that depict routes and terminals where the operators provide service. Tabular information for each operator catalogs their number of vessels, passenger counts, fares, seating capacity, route lengths and other data points. Note that a number of operators, despite repeated contact via phone and email, chose not to reply.

This report organizes water transportation operations into three sections based on California geography: northern California, the Sacramento Delta region; and southern California. A fourth section documents four operators who did not fall within those three geographic regions.

The report concludes with a listing of recreational voyage operators (e.g. cruises, fishing trips) that the authors felt did not constitute “water transportation” for the purposes of the detailed census yet may be of interest to those applying a broader definition of water transport.



Richard Kos is certified urban planner and geographic information systems expert. After earning a BS degree in Environmental Planning and Design from Rutgers University, Mr. Kos put his skills into practice with local governments in New Jersey and North Carolina, serving as assistant or senior planner for a number of rapidly-growing communities. He earned his master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2000, Mr. Kos served as a transportation planner and GIS analyst with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland, California, where he produced numerous maps related to welfare-to-work and lifeline transportation projects. From there, Mr. Kos spent four years as GIS manager for DC&E, an innovative planning and design firm in Berkeley. In 2008, Mr. Kos decided to bring his skills into academia where he currently teaches graduate-level Geographic Information Systems and studio-based community improvement projects at San Jose State University. Mr. Kos also teaches short-term GIS workshops at City College of San Francisco and the California Academy of Art and offers his consulting services to a variety of clients including Mobility Planners, the City of Mountain View, and WorldLink.


A North Carolinian by birth, a Californian by choice, and an Urbanist by calling, Nick Frey is a student of cities and the built form. With interests in land use and transportation and a deep environmental streak, Nick is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University. He spends his free time on the trail or in the ocean, and loves traveling by train. He spent a month in India, a year in Germany and is always looking for the next adventure. Nick hopes to apply his education to crafting a denser, greener, and more equitable future for his home, California.


Returning to San Jose State University, Mehedi Chowdhury is working on earning his master’s degree in Urban Planning with a focus on environmental planning. He received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from SJSU with a concentration on environmental impact assessment. He is currently interning at South Bay Water Recycling, managed by the City of San Jose’s Environmental Services Department. Mehedi is deeply interested in designing cities that will artfully integrate natural services and ecological functions with energy efficient and beautiful buildings to harmonize city and nature for both humans and non-humans. Mehedi hopes to one day influence planning decisions with green visions and to break through institutional and political barriers to optimize cities in the face of climate change at home – and to learn how it is being addressed abroad, particularly in his river-abundant, water-transit-ideal, ancestral homeland of Bangladesh. This 2018 Water Transit Census project became of interest to him when he was sitting in traffic and wished he had taken a ferry instead.

February 2019
Water transportation
Ferry service
Public transit



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