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.
Updated 8 a.m. Friday
The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation tells Billy Penn that they will test water taxis with the public this weekend from the dock at Spruce Street Harbor Park. For $4, those interested can take a 30 to 40 minute ride, and the taxis will run every hour from 3 to 8 p.m.
The boats will loop around to the battleship and then head up by Penn Treaty Park and back. They’ll make stops at the Dave & Buster’s dock and at the one at Market Street in case riders want to see some of the attractions located at those spots, and then back to Spruce Street Harbor Park.
The Delaware River Waterfront Corp. said earlier this year that three water taxis — purchased for a half a million dollars with the vision of transporting people from different docks along the Philadelphia coast of the Delaware River– would finally be in use this summer .
And the DRWC has made good on the promise that the 22-person boats that sat idle for more than a decade would be used to transport passengers. But for now, they’re being used primarily to supplement ferry traffic to and from Camden on an as-needed basis.
“As of right now,” said DRWC spokeswoman Emma Fried-Cassorla, “their main function is to supplement the ferry during peak times to get a greater number of passengers faster over to Camden and back again, especially for [Susquehanna Bank Center] shows.”
While the DRWC is still considering using the water taxis for charter tours and other uses, Fried-Cassorla didn’t elaborate on any concrete plans to extend the use of the water taxis past simply supplementing the ferry traffic to New Jersey.
In addition to both ferry docks (in Jersey and Philly) being augmented with water taxi docking stations, last summer, through a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, DRWC also built three docking stations on the Philly side at the Hilton Hotel at Penn’s Landing, Market Street and close to Dave and Buster’s on Columbus Boulevard. For now, the docks aren’t being used to accommodate water taxi traffic in between those locations.
The boats — named the William Penn, the Stephen Girard and the Ben Franklin — were purchased for more than a half a million dollars as part of a Penn’s Landing improvement project in 2003. At the time, developers had planned to construct a family-oriented entertainment complex centered around the water taxis and the riverfront, but the financing for that project fell through.
Since then, the DRWC has run into trouble getting the water taxis running because building the facilities, working with federal grants and laying out an operating plan took longer than originally anticipated. Now that the Port Authority has approved the vessels and their operations, the DRWC is able to at least get use out of them to make ferry travel easier.