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Red Line Reconstruction: Chicago Water Taxi to Add Service

By Casey Cora | May 15, 2013 6:44am
 A Chicago Water Taxi cruises along the Chicago River.
A Chicago Water Taxi cruises along the Chicago River.
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CHICAGO — With the CTA Red Line shutdown looming large over South Side commuters, Chinatown business leaders are reminding local riders of a little known alternative: the Chicago Water Taxi.

Wendella Boat Tours, which operates the shuttle boats, has expanded its Chinatown service and recently converted one of its river tour boats into a water taxi, upping the number of boats in its taxi fleet to four. Together, the boats can hold up to 394 riders.

“That should accommodate most of the demand,” Wendella spokesman Gregg Pupecki said.

Daily service from Chinatown’s Ping Tom Memorial Park, 300 W. 19th St., begins May 28. Departures will begin daily at 10:20 a.m. and last through 9 p.m.

The Red Line reconstruction project begins May 19 and will close the Red Line tracks from the Chinatown/Cermak stop all the way to the 95th Street stop.

For those looking to use the water taxi, getting to and from the daily grind won’t be cheap.

Earlier this year, the company raised its fares for nearly all of its water taxi routes, which whisk riders to four stops along the Chicago River: Chinatown, Ogilvie Transportation Center, La Salle and Clark Streets, and Michigan Avenue.

A one-way fare from Michigan Avenue to Chinatown now costs $6 per weekday and $7 on a weekend. Boarding at Ogilvie will shave two bucks off the cost of a trip to Chinatown — $4 weekdays and $5 on weekends.

All-day unlimited rides cost $8 on weekdays and $10 on weekends. Ten-ride passes cost $17.50, and a 31-day monthly pass goes for $60.

Those prices rival the cost of other forms of public transportation — full-fare, unlimited monthly rides on Metra can cost up to $263.50; a CTA unlimited monthly card costs $100.

Still, just getting to the water taxi dock in Chinatown may be a pricey obstacle for commuters.

Those looking to park cars near Ping Tom Park are faced with battling for street parking on Wentworth Avenue and surrounding residential streets or shelling out up to $120 for monthly passes to a pair of nearby lots on Wentworth Avenue.

Representatives from the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce have said an installation of bicycle ramps at the park's entrance may be forthcoming.

The Chicago Water Taxi offers free rides to active duty military and children 3 years old and under. Seniors 65 years and older get a half-price discount.

The company also uses the Regional Transportation Authority's Transit Checks and WageWorks, services maximizing pre-tax contributions for employee transportation expenses.