An article in last Friday’s New York Times asks the question: why doesn’t New York City have more ferries? The Staten Island Ferry is probably the most well known; and, of course, there is the popular water taxi from Wall Street to the Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn. But in a high-density urban area surrounded by water, the author argues that the water transportation potential is underutilized.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation is currently putting together a “Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study,” which should provide some guidance on expanding water transportation in the city.
I’ve always thought that here in Chicago water transportation options could be a fruitful area for reducing congestion and for expanding mobility options. In particular, the Chicago River and its tributaries could be used in this regard. Currently there are a couple of water taxi services that connect the main commuter rail stations on the west Loop with Michigan Avenue and Chinatown. But aside from the water taxis, passenger travel on the river is limited to private boats and tours.
I am sure there are engineering, navigational, and health and safety issues that would need to be squared away before expanding passenger travel on the river, but below I’ve put together a “back of the napkin” map of an ideal route.
Docks are situated at 1.5-2 mile intervals. In some areas the docks would serve neighborhoods with limited access to the rapid transit system while in others docks would be integrated with rail and bus to enhance mulitmodality.
I’m not sure about the timing or what sort of craft would be viable, but theoretically you could travel from the northern suburb of Evanston to downtown Chicago in a little more than an hour–making it competitive with local trains. The greatest potential would be for the north side Chicago neighborhoods where boat transit could be integrated with neighborhood commercial districts in areas like Logan Square/Lincoln Square, North/Clybourn, or Lincoln/Peterson.
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