Officials to look into hovercraft for future Bay Area ferries

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The Bay Area Council, a public policy organization, is considering hovercrafts as future ferries in the Bay Area. (KGO-TV)

When you think about a hovercraft your thoughts might turn to James Bond and a running gun battle from the film Die Another Day.

The Bay Area Council, a public policy organization, would like you to think again.

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Bay Area Council officials went to England last year to check out hovercraft that ferry people out to islands in the English Channel.

The council's Chief Operating Officer John Grubb says, "It's a lot like riding on a ferry boat, but there's less of that up and down kind of stuff. It's a little bit more of a jiggle, but it's a very similar experience."

Hovercrafts are faster-- up to 30 percent faster than the swiftest Catamaran ferries operating on the Bay. A hovercraft would also be less noisy, especially to fish and other creatures that live under the water. But, since they travel on a cushion of air on top of the water, you wouldn't have to dredge sensitive mudflats and other shallows for docks.

"Hovercraft's go straight up on to the shore, onto a concrete landing. They can even land on the beach," Grubb says.

Hovercraft technology is not new, it dates back to the 50s. In the past, they were considered too noisy and costly. However, Grubb says new engines make them quieter. The purchases price is comparable to the $15-million the latest catamaran ferries fetch, but operating costs can be 20 percent cheaper-- and the bay area already has one proponent.

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Matt Riese built his own hovercraft, which he made to look like the DeLorean car in "Back to the Future". He could sometimes be seen tooling around the bay in it. He thinks a hover-ferry here makes perfect sense.

"Yeah, I think it would be fun for people to get to work every morning to say, 'yeah, I just got here but I've already ridden on a hovercraft today.' "

On Thursday, at a meeting of the water emergency transportation board, the Bay Area Council officially asked for financial help in exploring the idea.

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