Chicago Water Taxi Improves Air Quality, Mitigates Congestion
When Andrew Sargis looks at the Chicago River, he sees a potential highway that can complement other transportation options for commuters.
"This river is just a huge empty plot, really. It's really underused. We want to have boats going all over, increasing the frequency that we bring people around as much as possible," Sargis says.
As manager of the Chicago Water Taxi company, Sargis oversees its growing fleet of taxis, including the Bravo Water Taxi, which was funded by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program in 2000. The CMAQ program supports surface transportation improvements designed to improve air quality and mitigate congestion. Past projects have included bike paths, construction of commuter parking lots, intersection improvements, bottleneck eliminations, and transit retrofits to reduce diesel emissions.
In August 2011, the Chicago Water Taxi saw ridership reach a record of 73,482. The water taxi season runs from St. Patrick's Day until November 28. During the winter, the water taxis get a complete overhaul, from repairs to repainting. But Sargis says their vision, in keeping with GO TO 2040, is to eventually provide a year-round commuting option using taxis like the climate-controlled Bravo. The company is exploring new ways to decrease the boat's diesel consumption through adding solar panels and creating additional intermodal opportunities, such as combining a water taxi ride with other transportation modes like bike-sharing.
"The biggest thing for us is intermodal," Sargis says. "It's connecting these different modes of transportation and making these an option."