2012-09-27 / Local & State

Philly Water Taxis Planned For Delaware River Area

PHILADELPHIA (AP) –Officials hope three boats bobbing in a marina just south of Philadelphia's Market Street will be the start of new future for the Delaware River In which travel by water taxi is no novelty.

The blue-and-white vessels with familiar Philly names – William Penn, Ben Franklin and Stephen Girard – have yet to make their maiden voyages, but officials hope they will begin chartered water taxi trips next year, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.

The water taxis were bought by the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. in 2003 as part of a planned family entertainment complex and were to be marketed as the Waterlink, a companion to the Riverlink ferry connecting the Camden and Philadelphia waterfronts. But financing for the project fell through, so the $170,000 boats sat in storage for almost a decade.

This year, the corporation has taken the 22-passenger vessels out, spurred by a new master plan aimed at getting more city residents and tourists out onto the river. The boats must pass Coast Guard safety tests before being deemed capable of shuttling passengers up and down the river.

Joe Forkin, the waterfront corporation's vice president for operations and development, said officials have not decided where the boats might stop, how far they might travel and how fast they would go, all of which would require Coast Guard approval.

“Ultimately, we hope to serve an increased tourist base – getting people used to being on the water,” he said. “You can park your car and then hit different destinations.”

Tourism officials say there have been advocates for water taxis for some time, but the idea never really caught on. But Meryl Levitz, chief executive officer of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp, said she believes that with increased development on the waterfront, the time is right.

“People have been looking at this for a very long time,” Levitz said. “It's a big, busy river, and to make it work right, it takes a lot. We're thrilled the (waterfront corporation) is taking it on.”

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