(Updated October 20, 2013)
Many commuters from Contra Costa, Solano and the Wine Country who normally parked at East Bay BART stations and took the train into SF are scrambling to find new ways to get to work during the BART strike. If you're considering using the Sausalito Ferry and are not from the Sausalito area here's our guide to the service, along with observations on the best ways to use it.
1. If you're driving to Sausalito from outside Southern Marin, we strongly recommend you take Golden Gate Transit or Marin Transit buses to reach the Ferry pier. The stops at Bridgeway & El Portal and at Anchor & Humboldt are adjacent to the Ferry, and the Bridgeway & El Portal stop is served by many diffrent routes. Do NOT use the Highway 101 Rodeo Ave. bus stop in Sausalito -- it's high on the hill and far away from the Ferry.
2. If you drive you'll face a crowded commute getting to the Sausalito Ferry and returning home. Both the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and Highway 101 from Novato past the Highway 37 interchange to northern San Rafael are very crowded during rush hour even without a strike.
3. The Larkspur Ferry has free parking, but the lots fill up by 8:30 AM on non-strike days and the District has asked people to stay away because there's nowhere to park for additional riders. If you can take a bus or get dropped off, however, it's a good choice since all but the peak-time voyages always have seating capacity. (They've published the increased Larkspur ridership data from the first 2013 strike here.)
Sausalito's Ferry pier does NOT have free parking, and all the metered street parking typically has a two hour limit. Parking lots surround the Ferry boarding area and you prepay for the number of hours you plan to park via standard style machines. Do not try to park in nearby residential areas -- if it's within walking distance of the Ferry it's prohibited and almost a guaranteed parking ticket if you don't have the right sticker. The District has not published the Sausalito ridership numbers but anecdotally the service has not been mobbed apart from the usual parade of late-afternoon SF-bound bike renters heading back to the City.
4. If you're planning to return late, check the Sausalito Ferry Schedules from both the Ferry Building and from Fisherman's Wharf. There is little evening service, although there are many late afternoon choices.
5. After the first few days of a transit strike a new balance is reached and things get more predictible, even if they're still awful. If in doubt (and if your job allows it) leave later than usual. As the usual commute peaks taper off and we get closer to 10:00 AM in the morning everything starts to open up. The same is true in the evening, although traffic north from Sausalito is normally bad till about 7:15 PM with no BART strike going on.
Take it easy out there and stay safe!
Photo Credit: Trace Nietert