From the Boathouse: Give water taxis another try, but do it right

March 14, 2014|By Mike Whitehead


I am pleased that the discussion about water taxis in Newport Harbor has bubbled up to the surface again.

Yes, taxis have failed in the past because the logistics and paying ridership were not well thought out. Additionally, the project was privately funded without the city or any transportation agency subsidies. This is one adventure that has to be a public and private venture.

First, it was a little worrisome when the City Council tried to dictate the boat's power source from the dais and not from reality. It is good to try to be so-called green, but requiring the taxis to be only electric-powered is very shortsighted to the needs of the project and doesn't take into account the advancements in marine engines.


Luckily, the council voted to accept proposals that would use vessels powered by all means of propulsion, whether electric, diesel-electric, petroleum or steam. The new tier diesel engines are amazing with their very low emissions and ability to maintain needed power.

However, I expect at least two proposals from local electric boat companies; Duffy Electric Boat Co. and Lear Electric Boats can both demonstrate the all-electric models.

The proposals should concentrate on the boat designs to meet and satisfy the needs and expectations of riders. Furthermore, the taxis have to operate in all weather conditions with an all-enclosed passenger cabin for a dry, clean ride.

Another essential design element is passenger loading that includes side loading and bow loading. However, let's not forget the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for those needing an extra hand.

The taxis' docking areas need to be reexamined for safety and practicality for public use. The crew will need to wipe hand railings, especially after dew point, and assist passengers up and down the gangways during low tides. Docks must be clean and easy to navigate for women dressed up for dinner and wearing high heels.

A very hot topic that needs to be discussed is increasing the speed limit in the harbor for water taxis. The boat design specifications can be tailored to require low wake hulls, which would allow a taxi to operate faster than the current speed limit.

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