trip highlights potential of hovercraft on the bay

The gate opened at the bow of the vessel, a black skirt draped around its hull. We boarded and took our seats. Within minutes, the boat rose quickly and effortlessly above the ground, the engines producing a dull thrumming sound and a cushion of air on which the boat gently hovered. The vessel glided smoothly away from the launch ramp, pivoted 180 degrees and accelerated. We were off.

You can be skeptical about hovercraft passenger service for the Bay Area, until you ride one. Then, you are changed. It was an awakening experience for a dozen water transit experts that the Bay Area Council and CEO Jim Wunderman led to Portsmouth, England, this week to do a deep-dive learning experience about hovercraft. The group rode a service that has 80-passenger crafts. They toured some recently retired hovercraft that carried 425 passengers and 60 cars across the English Channel. And, they heard from elected leaders and visited with hovercraft manufacturers.

Hovercraft offer a compelling opportunity to propel a dramatic expansion of regional water transit service that is already taking shape under the leadership of Council member Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). Hovercraft could be a solution to accessing areas of the Bay where dredging costs, docks and environmental issues present obstacles to other vessels. The Council will be working with delegates from the trip, other officials in our region, with trip co-leader HOVR California, and many others to explore if next generation hovercraft have a place in the Bay Area. To engage in our water transit work, please contact Chief Operating Officer John Grubb.

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