Implementing a river transit service on a 22 mile segment of the Klamath River from the Northern California coast upstream to the village of Weitchpec would provide tribal members with a connection from one end of the Yurok Reservation to the other – achieving a trip time of 45 minutes, which is 2 1/4 hours shorter than current travel time by road. The project developed a plan to meet this community transportation need, as well as sustainability and economic development needs, by combining this transit service for tribal members with a for-profit scenic and cultural river tour experience for visitors. Both services would be tribally operated, and would share terminal facilities, boats and other infrastructure. Profits from the commercial trips could be used to help fund the river transit component.
To assess feasibility and develop a business plan, the team combined information from extensive community and stakeholder input, along with interviews with boat manufacturers and operators of similar commercial services on other western rivers. This research provided valuable data on a wide range of factors related to boat purchase, operations and maintenance costs, as well as information for developing ridership targets. To help determine fleet configuration and estimate costs, we adapted the Ferry Lifecycle Cost Model for Federal Land Management Agencies developed by the Volpe Transportation Center. Significant adaptations were needed because the nature of Klamath River requires using jet boats, which are very different from the vessels for which the Volpe model was designed.
We simultaneously modeled cost and revenue projections for two service alternatives, using data from the interviews to tailor the model and improve estimates. The analysis included capital costs, operations and maintenance, as well as marketing sales and administrative expenses. Summed expenses and costs for the commercial and transit services indicated that visitor and local community needs can be met when combined. The team developed detailed recommendations for system design, fleet size and vessel choice, schedules and operational calendars, projected budgets and funding strategies. Finally, we identified questions to answer for making key business decisions prior to launching the enterprise.
Current Transportation Solutions subcontracted to Natural Resources Services, a division of Redwood Community Action Agency (NRS/RCAA) for this project.