New Public Transportation Sails onto DC Metro Scene

A new alternative to crowded Metro tunnels, clogged streets and pricy cabs is quickly gaining popularity along DC’s waterfront: water taxis. The American River Taxi (ART) service launched its first two yellow, bus-like boats in 2010, which service restaurant-goers, concert attendees and Nationals fans traveling between Washington Harbour, The Wharf and The Yards.

ART President and founder Shaun Guevarra launched his idea for water taxi services in 2008 as a solution for overpopulated streets and what he describes as an “underutilized river.” The company aims to provide quality service to the expanding industries along DC’s waterfront. Now, ART has plans to add two more taxis and four more stops at Poplar Point, Reagan National Airport, Alexandria and National Harbor by next year.

When designing the taxi service, Guevarra said that he looked to European transportation for inspiration. He also kept the environment in mind, trying to minimize the impact of the taxis by using hybrid, low emission engines, boats with shallow hulls to protect the shoreline and partnering with the Potomac Watershed Cleanup. ART has also taken steps to remain unobtrusive among the canoes, dinghies, rowboats and motorboats that already populate the Potomac.

“We work with our captains and our crew to make sure they’re very mindful of the kayakers and anything else that’s going on,” Guevarra said.

The taxis seat 25 to 75 people, run Mondays through Saturdays, and can accommodate bikes and dogs although not all the boats are wheelchair accessible. A ride takes 30 minutes on average and costs $9 for the general public and $7 for children under 12 and senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased upon boarding the taxi and, starting in July, customers will be able to buy tickets in advance online and at kiosks located at Washington Harbour and The Wharf.

Customers will also be able to buy membership cards, which operate much like Smartrip cards, and discount 20 percent off of taxi fare. Members will also have access to various promotional deals in addition to the deals that ART offers to the general public, such as discounted tickets to Nationals games and 10 percent off meals at Tony & Joe’s and Nicks. The full list of promotional discounts will be available at a later date.

Currently, most of ART’s customers are people hoping to avoid traffic jams and parking fees at concerts, plays and Nationals games. Guevarra said that in addition to providing people with a different view of the city, water taxis are a less stressful back way to commute.

“Our guests would say that it’s a lot more relaxing,” he said.

ART operates year-round and in inclimate weather, although service is suspended during thunder storms and when wind speed rises above 30 miles per hour. To-the-minute weather updates can be found on the company’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Guevarra said that ART tries to keep customer service at the forefront of its mission. As a company that was born in DC as a response to its transportation needs and remains based in the southwest waterfront, ART is open to suggestions from the neighborhood it services.

“We’re trying to focus on being DC’s water taxi,” Guevarra said.

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