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Whatever happened with water taxis on the Delaware? This summer, DWRC says: ‘We’re almost there’

Welcome to “What ever happened with,” Billy Penn’s ongoing series that will look at older stories that may have been forgotten about or otherwise not followed up on. Whether it’s a delayed development project or an unsolved murder mystery, “What ever happened with” strives to tell you what’s up with that Philly thing you might have forgotten about.

It’s been more than a decade since the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. purchased three boats to be used as taxis to shuttle people up and down the river. Since they were bought in 2003, the 22-person boats have sat idle.

But if all goes well with the Delaware River Port Authority, the Waterfront Corp. says you’ll be able to finally ride in one of the city’s water taxis for the first time this summer.

“We felt from the get-go that a very comprehensive service would better serve the visitors and animate the river and add another option,” DRWC Vice President for Operations and Development Joe Forkin told Billy Penn this week. “We are thrilled that we’re almost there and all the boats will be in action.”

The boats — named the William Penn, the Stephen Girard and the Ben Franklin — were purchased for just over a half a million dollars in total as part of a Penn’s Landing project in 2003, but the financing fell through and they couldn’t get the boats on the water.

But last summer, through a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, DRWC built three new water taxi docking stations along the river — one at the Hilton Hotel at Penn’s Landing, one at the foot of Market Street and one close to what’s now Dave and Buster’s on Columbus Boulevard.

The current ferry dock on the Philadelphia side has a water taxi dock and the station on the Camden side has also been augmented for the purpose of the water taxis as well.

The DRWC is currently concluding negotiations with the Port Authority in order to enter into an agreement with the ferry services that take passengers from Philadelphia to Camden. Forkin said the water taxis will be used for “point-to-point” service, but how often the taxis will take passengers will depend on demand that the corporation has yet to determine.

And for the corporation and Forkin, this project has been a long time coming. After financing fell through in the 2000s to get the water taxis in use, the DRWC estimated in 2012 that the taxis would be on the river by 2013.

Forkin said building the facilities, working with the feds who provided the grant and coming up with an operating plan proved to take longer than they originally anticipated.

He said the DRWC is still investigating all the possibilities the water taxis can present. The group knows they want them to be part of the already existing ferry service — anything past that is still up in the air.

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