Water taxis: Flag down a cab on the Delaware

The city riverfront agency’s small fleet of water taxis have never been used since purchase.

With the final master plan for the Central Delaware Waterfront introduced, the development agency in charge of the corridor said it expects to solicit proposals this winter for the operation of water taxis and hopefully have limited service up and running next summer.

The taxis are among several improvements planned for along Delaware River, including public parks and connecting streets to the neighboring communities by making them more pedestrian-friendly. The water taxis are one of the most immediate projects, officials said.

“Adding a coastline water shuttle system would complement [Delaware River Port Authority’s ferry] and would move people along the coastline to certain important points,” said Joe Forkin, vice president of operations and development for Delaware River Waterfront Corp. “This is another way to get onto the water and enjoy the water.”

Forkin said DRWC has purchased three vehicles, which can each carry up to 26 passengers. Initial stops would likely include Penn’s Landing Marina near the Hyatt Hotel, the Great Plaza, Festival Pier and possibly SugarHouse Casino, which opened last year. The system could eventually feature as many as 11 stops, according to the plan.

The Philadelphia system would be more of a transit option for commuters traveling to Camden or other points near the river than a tourist draw, Forkin said.

Chicago Water Taxi had a record number of passengers in 2010 and expects to surpass that this year.
“It’s all about the more stops the better. You want to make it more accessible to the public,” said Andrew Sargis, operations manager for Chicago Water Taxi, a subsidiary of Wendella Boats.

DRWC’s plan still needs final approval from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

More attractions needed
   
While the waterfront is still underdeveloped, Forkin said he thinks there will enough demand for the taxis, especially if they can reach an agreement with the Delaware River Port Authority to connect passengers to the ferry for one fare.
          
“I think ultimately there will be as the plan builds out and that’s why we’re proposing limited service next season to test the waters,” he said.
         
 Full service could be in place by 2013, he said.
   


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