Key to the Bay  

Key Route Pier postcardFirst there were ferries. From the earliest days in Oakland, ferries transported passengers back and forth between Oakland and San Francisco. The ferries came to docks along the estuary. The foot of Broadway was one ferry dock. But the estuary was shallow so ferry piers were built where they could reach deep water. The railroad built the first freight and ferry pier at Oakland Point. After expansion in 1882, it became the Southern Pacific's Oakland Mole. Then in 1903, the Key System opened a ferry pier that jutted three miles out into the Bay. Shaped like an old fashioned key, the pier was one part of a local transportation network of electric street cars, fast trains and ferries. In 1930 for example, the ferries carried over 45 million passengers.

Then came the bridge. The San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge opened on November 12, 1936. Automobiles were already beginning to replace street cars, and now those automobiles challenged the ferry domination of the Bay. But you can still ride on a ferry. Board one near Jack London Square.

Deborah Cooper
Oakland Museum of California

Oakland Museum of California Logo  "Walk Along the Water"
  Oakland Museum of California, used with permission.

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Key System pier and ferry photographs - Keyrailpix, John Stashik

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