Port of SF hopes water taxis turn into real commuting vehicle

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Among all the ways to get around San Francisco, from cable cars to car sharing, you can add one more new way, that's actually a very old way. We have a look at the taxi you can soon take, that never gets stuck in traffic.

Nearly a century ago, rush hour meant horse drawn carriages, trolleys, and pedestrians crossing wherever they could.

Nowadays, it's filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic and brake lights.

You see, back in the day, our Bay Area bridges didn't exist. There was only one way across the bay. All that traffic was out on the water. And there was something else besides ferries, something called a water taxi.

"They work just like a normal taxi," said Tideline Marine Group CEO and founder Taylor Lewis. "You call us with as much heads up as you could possibly have, we do prefer at least a day's heads up."

Lewis is bringing the water taxi back. His company quietly launched a year and a half ago with a boat that carries up to six people. Well, word's gotten out. And the market has spoken.

Tideline Marine Group is getting a bigger boat; one that seats 40 people, to be exact. It will be the second boat in their fleet.

"This boat is really just exceptional for the conditions here, which is what we've been trying to study for the last year and a half," Lewis said.

The folks from the Port of San Francisco say they view the bay as an untapped resource. It's something that, with more help from services like Lewis' water taxi, could help take thousands of cars off the streets.

"I'd love to see it eventually morph into something where it becomes a real commuting vehicle," said Port of San Francisco Commissioner Doreen Woo Ho.

For now, it fills in the gaps; shuttling people into the city from the North Bay and East Bay, often outside of regular ferry hours, or docking in spots where only a small boat can fit. There's never a backup, never a red light.

"Jack London Square is about a 10 minute ride from here at this location," Lewis said.

At $35 a person, it costs more than a regular taxi. But it also has a nicer view; even nicer if your employer is paying for it. That's something the port hopes will happen if water taxis start running to the South Bay.

Bloom: "The Google boat instead of the Google bus?"
Woo Ho: "Yeah, and I don't know if it just has to be for Google. It could be for everybody.

Though Tideline stops at about a dozen places right now, more are coming. The port is asking waterfront businesses to build docks for boats this size. That includes places like The Exploratorium and AT&T Park.
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