Water taxi service requires honest disclosure
Baltimore's new -- and soon-to-be-expanded -- water taxi service for commuters is a very attractive idea in many respects. I rode it from Fells Point to Locust Point Tuesday evening and it was a perfect crossing that too less than five minutes each way. This fall it is expected to start offering an eight-minute passage between Locust Point and Canton.
But reader Mark Adams introduced a note of reality in an email. He wrote: "The late Ed Kane used to tell me that he NEVER wanted to have commuter service because of the problems that come when you deliver someone to work in the morning and can't take them home in the evening because of a thunderstorm."
Mr. Adams, channeling the late water taxi entrepreneur, makes a great point. Tuesday evening might have been a perfect day for a crossing, but there will be many imperfect days. The city, the water taxi and the commuters themselves must all understand that safety trumps schedule and convenience on every occasion. The fact that a rider gets a free, convenient trip to Locust Point in the morning doesn't mean that person is entitled to a ride back that evening. If storms are in the area, the boats must not leave the dock. There can never be another Lady D incident in Baltimore harbor.
Inevitably, there will be folks who won't understand that principle -- who will shout and scream and bluster at the boat operators when they shut down the service. The city needs to back up the operators -- and to level with users of the service -- by mounting clear signage at each of its piers warning commuters that the service will not operate under dangerous weather conditions. It should further advise passengers that it is their obligation to have a Plan B and to cheerfully use it when storm clouds gather.
The city could help here by distributing brochures to riders outlining the various transit routes they can use to make their way around the harbor when the service is down. The passengers themselves would be wise to channel some of the money they are saving on this free service into a Taxi Fund. With a spare $30 or $40 in a hidden compartment of one's wallet there will always be a way to get home -- even on those rare occasions where a water taxi passenger can't find someone to share the fare.
With those understandings in case, it could be a great service. The Locust Point peninsula poses a unique transit challenge, and the best solutions are to be found on the water -- but not every day.
Photo by Michael Dresser/Baltimore Sun