Harbor Shuttle afloat again Grounded for a week, boat service wins new city contract

March 06, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's familiar Harbor Shuttle, scuttled for a week, resurfaced yesterday in the Inner Harbor.

With little fanfare, the city has negotiated a new agreement with Ron Morgan, operator of the water taxi service. The deal puts Harbor Shuttle back in business, a week after Morgan accused city officials of giving his only competitor favored treatment and filed a $2 million lawsuit against the city.

According to Morgan, the new agreement will allow Harbor Shuttle to land at the Maryland Science Center and the Harborplace Amphitheatre, between the Pratt and Light streets pavilions. Landings at the Rusty Scupper, the aquarium and all other city-owned docks in the harbor are still off-limits to Harbor Shuttle.

But those limitations don't bother Morgan. He dropped his lawsuit against the city yesterday.

"I'm just glad to be back in business," Morgan said. "The agreement keeps everybody employed, and that's what's really important."

Officials at the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for Baltimore's harbor landings, would not comment on the agreement yesterday. But Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is expected to announce details of the deal today.

"George Balog and the mayor really went out of their way to make this deal work," Morgan said. Balog is the director of public works.

In addition to landing rights at the science center and amphitheater, Morgan said city officials gave him permission to reduce the price he charges adult passengers.

Since Aug. 15, 1995, the city has required Baltimore's two water taxi companies, Harbor Shuttle and Ed Kane's Water Taxi, to charge adult passengers $3.50 for an all-day ticket. With his limited stops, Morgan will be allowed to charge $2 per person. "They took the price fix off to help us stay in business," said Morgan. "By reducing our prices, we can continue to compete with Kane."

Kane, owner of Harbor Boating Inc., uses eight city-owned landings in the Inner Harbor. He also docks at three landings in the Outer Harbor. Kane could not be reached for comment yesterday.

For more than five years, Morgan had been landing at seven city-owned docks -- including those at the Rusty Scupper, science center and aquarium. The city banned him from those docks in April, city records show. Since then, Morgan had been operating an early-morning shuttle service from Canton's Tindeco Wharf and a dock off Ann Street in Fells Point to the amphitheater. That service was halted last week, when city officials temporarily shut Harbor Shuttle down.

Morgan said he was banned from the Inner Harbor because his only competitor, Kane, operator of the Water Taxi, is a close friend of Richard E. Hurley Jr., the former director of construction at the Baltimore Development Corp.

Hurley was in charge of the city's harbor landings for several years, until October, shortly before he retired. He and Kane have been friends since 1972. During the last mayoral campaign, Kane contributed $2,300 to Schmoke. Morgan did not contribute to any candidate, election records show.

Pub Date: 3/06/97

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