Downtown Baltimore, Maryland is working hard to remain a tourist destination, while improving its branding as a decent place to live. The most comprehensive source detailing what Baltimore hopes to achieve is the Inner Harbor 2.0 plan. Published late last year, the plan has stirred up a lot of discussion about future development, including suggestions to expand its water taxi service.
Water taxi is available through a privately operated service, Baltimore Water Taxi, who partners with the City to provide the free Harbor Connector. I assume the banner ads on the boats help support the free weekday routes, in addition to encouraging spending in the area – of all the crab cake laden ads, we were drawn to Papi’s Tacos for dinner. The Harbor Connector runs on weekdays during business hours to provide more convenient service for commuters, while the Baltimore Water Taxi runs all seven days with later hours.
Before I wrote this blog post, it seemed necessary to actually experience a ride with Baltimore Water Taxi’s service and I have to say, it was a good time. Starting downtown, we passed the aquarium, several shops, and restaurants, all the while dodging crowds and strollers on the promenade. The taxi was easy to find next to the historic USS Constellation, where a huge crowd was drawn in by an acrobatic street performer. A crew member assured us we were boarding the right boat; we were heading to Fells Point for a geocache in Thames Street Park, followed by dinner and drinks.
Though a taxi was just floating away when we walked up, another one arrived soon after with a friendly and helpful crew. After some sitting around, the water taxi took off. Here’s what’s to like about the ride:
- Scenic views of Federal Hill and other historic attractions;
- Routes within throwing distance of urban pirates and Chessie boats;
- Access to waterfront attractions and dining in the city;
- At least thirty coupons included with the daily pass (this was a welcome surprise);
- Restaurant advertisements all over the boat to make you hungry;
- Free Harbor Connector service on weekdays;
- Affordable passes from one-way use to annual family passes; and
- Clean boats with covered seating.
My only complaints are the smell, which is worse in warmer weather due to the mixing of salty water and bay pollution, and the lack of a mobile app. Restoration efforts are in progress in the Inner Harbor and the Charm City Circulator has an app, so it doesn’t seem too far off to expect more pleasant smells and at least a Harbor Connector app in the future. Recently, the water taxi service became an on-call service during the winter (even more reason for an app!), a time when the smell is apparently of Domino sugar instead of salty trash.
I think the expansion of this service relies on increased commuter usage, which relies on Baltimore attracting more residents, which relies on serious and smart urban planning. It may get crowded during the summer months, but there were maybe ten other passengers on each boat we boarded for an early April day trip.
Are you convinced the water taxi of Baltimore is worthy of expansion?
Credits: Images by Jade Clayton. Data linked to sources.