WASHINGTON – A year-long study commissioned by several area counties, including Prince William, Fairfax, Arlington and Charles County, Md., has determined a demand for a water taxi service to ferry commuters across the Potomac River and its tributaries. This comes as a result of the area’s robust population and the market of jobs located along the water, according to the study.
Tim Payne, a principal at the firm handling the study, has combed over results that show a sustainable market to support a daily water taxi service to various places in the region, including Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB). To gauge a better understanding of this concept, guests from various agencies and municipalities from around the region, including JBAB Commander Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra, were invited to take a tour aboard a water taxi Oct. 28. The tour included a visit to the Pentagon’s marina and docking area before returning to JBAB.
“In Alexandria alone, we found there are a little more than 1,800 residents who currently work at either the St. Elizabeth’s U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, or at a building on JBAB,” Payne said during the tour. “A service like this could cut their commute and result in having fewer cars on the road during the morning or evening rush hour.”
While it must be decided whether a service like this should be operated by a public entity or through a public-private partnership, Payne said short connections among Alexandria, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Washington are certainly worth pursuing.
The Potomac Riverboat Company, which hosted the tour, currently operates a fleet of passenger boats out of Alexandria, Va. While providing service to National Harbor, Md., boats routinely dock just two blocks away from Nationals Park during baseball season.
The idea of water taxis and ferries in the region has been talked about for many years – usually culminating in a lengthy debate over cost and whether enough commuters would use the service and justify its purpose.
Scott Davies, operations development manager for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), said the idea is now more palatable due to increased traffic congestion on not only the roads, but on railways, as well.
He said a marine highway program was recently designated that includes the Potomac, Anacostia and Occoquan rivers. This could make commercially viable waterway routes eligible for federal funding, Davies said.
“We still have a lot to figure out in terms of cost and land use, but having a maritime service is definitely a smart move,” Davies said. “We already have service to some parts and there’s enough to start a small network. It would be a huge benefit to the region.”
Since taking command of JBAB, Calandra has been a proponent of having some type of water service to the base. If the project were to move forward, he promised continued support on his end.