Water Taxis: A Relaxing Alternative - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Water Taxis: A Relaxing Alternative

A $2 fare will take you on a scenic tour of the Chicago River in under 12 minutes!

First introduced to Chicago in 1962, water taxis are very small passenger-only ferries (about 50 feet long or less). Chicago ’s water taxis are available on a fixed route, due to high demand, but on-demand service is offered in other locations. Traveling at an average speed of 8.4 mph, water taxis can load and unload very quickly and run frequently, making them ideal for commuters. They are often more reliable than surface transit options such as buses or taxis because they operate on water, where there is considerably less traffic. Water taxis alleviate traffic congestion by moving people from land to water, and can help reduce a region’s carbon footprint by eliminating idling surface transport. 

Chicago Water Taxi entrance, Photo: Richie Diesterheft

At Chicago’s Madison Avenue Bridge dock, close to both Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center (major transit centers for Metra and Amtrak), water taxis offer relief to commuters who would otherwise have to make the 1.5-mile hike to the North Loop. Unlike traditional cabs, local water taxis charge a flat rate as low as $2, regardless of how far you travel. In addition to low fares, passengers also can enjoy a peaceful, scenic tour of Chicago’s world renowned architecture.

The water taxis’ simplicity adds to its lure. Chicago tourists, both foreign and domestic, will find the service easy to navigate because it does not stray from the water. Visitors can hop from the Sears Tower to the Shedd Aquarium to Chinatown with an all-day water taxi pass, all the while enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of the river, away from the hustle and bustle of the streets above. Passengers can enjoy climate-controlled temperatures inside the enclosed cabin (water taxis are equipped to run even during unfavorable weather conditions) or feel the wind on their faces on deck.

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s newly appointed Riverwalk Development Committee works with members of the public and private sectors to utilize the waterfront better, and transform it into an inviting place that attracts shops, restaurants, and other development opportunities.  Accessibility via water taxis help invigorate the Riverwalk by attracting both residents and tourists to the area. The Fox River in St. Charles or the DuPage River in Naperville both could benefit from a water taxi service.  Whether exploring the city or making a daily commute, water taxis offer an eco-friendly, efficient and memorable transit experience.

This article was featured in Talking Transit, MPC's bi-weekly e-newsletter. To receive the newsletter, email talkingtransit@metroplanning.org with ‘Subscribe' in the subject line.

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