Facebook is the latest Silicon Valley-based tech company to ferry workers by boat across the San Francisco Bay in the hopes of offering a convenient, traffic free way to commute to work.
The 53-foot charter boat — christened the New El Dorado III — will operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a 90-day trial following the initial Feb. 4 launch. At this point, the vessel is making a single trip in the morning from San Francisco to Redwood City and one return trip in evening, a Facebook spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Facebook taxi is a catamaran that can carry about 30 people. Amenities on the marine version of the notorious private tech shuttles include Wi-Fi, coffee, and snacks. The Tideline Marine Group owns and operates the ferry. The Port of Redwood City is charging a $95 per day docking fee to Facebook, as well as $1.75 for each rider. Once in Redwood City, the Facebook employees take a 10-minute shuttle to the main office in Menlo Park.
Facebook’s adventure at sea follows a number of maritime efforts from Google. In the fall, the appearance of the then-mysterious “Google Barge,” which turned out to be a really fancy showroom for the search giant’s new toys. The company launched two ferries — one from San Francisco and the other from Oakland — to help its employees commute to Mountain View.
It’s hard to say exactly why ocean-going vessels are seen as a solution to the Bay Area’s well documented traffic problems, but it might be a response to the regional backlash against the private tech shuttles. Such shuttles are seen by many as a potent symbol of the tech industry’s hubris, and they have generated numerous, sometimes violent protests in the past several months.
Whether or not Facebook’s taxi will be given the “Greenpeace treatment” (as in blockading the vessel at sea) is hard to know at this point. But, despite the controversy, many transit officials in the region see private transportation options as a useful solution to reduce congestion and tailpipe emissions. The Facebook ferry, after all, is potentially taking 30 cars off the road every day.