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Water Taxi Opens North Avenue Dock

By Paul Biasco | May 29, 2013 7:49am
 Chicago Water Taxi opened up service to the North Branch of the Chicago River Tuesday morning at its newest dock under the North Avenue bridge.
North Avenue Water Taxi
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GOOSE ISLAND — The Chicago River opened to North Side commuters Tuesday morning, as the Chicago Water Taxi service launched its maiden voyage from the North Avenue dock.

The new dock under the east end of the North Avenue bridge began by serving rush hour commuters to and from the downtown dock at Madison Street and will eventually add trips throughout the day.

For commuters Tuesday afternoon, the 20-minute trip was a breeze.

Kevin Hennessy, a 33-year-old trader, hopped a $4 ride from the Madison dock between Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center to North Avenue after work and was so pleased with the trip he bought a 10-ride pass.

"It's the absolute best way to get home," he said.

Hennessy had never been on a water taxi. He usually takes two buses back to his Lincoln Park condo, which takes 35 to 40 minutes.

"It's always cool to get a different perspective of the city," he said. "Normally you see the buildings from the street, but from the river it's amazing."

Wendella Boats, operators of Chicago Water Taxi, see the expansion to North Avenue as an alternative for commuters who normally take the "L" or bus.

"We love tourists, but we are really trying to be part of the city's transportation network," said Andrew Sargis, chief of operations for Chicago Water Taxi.

The company decided on the North Avenue station in part because some of its most loyal customers from Wrigley who used to get dropped off at the foot of their Michigan Avenue building now work on Goose Island.

Many of Wrigley's employees take Metra trains into downtown, and will now be able to hop a water taxi for nearly the same price as a CTA pass and get dropped off about 100 feet from the front door of the company's new headquarters.

Sargis said Wendella has always dreamed of a North Branch route since launching the taxi service in 1962, but it wasn't until Wrigley approached the company about the location two years ago that it became a possibility.

During the trial schedule there will be four morning departures from the Madison Street dock to North Avenue and four trips from North Avenue back downtown.

There are three scheduled trips in each direction during the afternoon commute.

A full schedule can be found on the company's website.

A single trip along the route costs $4, while a 10-trip pass costs $24.

"We try to keep our prices as competitive as possible despite the fact that we think it's pretty much better than any other way of getting around the city," Sargis said.

Wendella plans on expanding service at the North Avenue dock to midday hours and eventually to weekends once its popularity spreads.

The taxis typically start the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day and run through Thanksgiving.

The Chicago Water Taxi started as a rush hour commuter service in 1962 between Michigan Avenue and the Northwestern Railroad Station. The company has since grown to include docks at LaSalle Street and Michigan Avenue on the main branch and in Chinatown on the south branch.

"We really believe she was the nation’s first inter-city water taxi," Sargis said. "In New York they had the ferry, but we are talking inter-city."