Inner Harbor's water highway Shuttle boats: Better use of passenger craft could ease parking and commuting problems.

March 09, 1997

CITY PUBLIC works director George Balog did the right thing in continuing Ron Morgan's disputed Harbor Shuttle franchise until all the rival passenger launch service contracts expire in 1999. His decision now allows the authorities to seek simultaneous bid proposals from interested operators for all city-owned docks, including the Fort McHenry pier, which is currently a terminal for the most lucrative route.

The next logical step for Mr. Balog's department is to make its decision-making part of wider efforts to ease downtown's parking crunch. If linkages are established to satellite parking areas, the waterborne passenger shuttles offer an easy and attractive way for residents and tourists to get to the Inner Harbor attractions without having to pay exorbitant fees at often filled downtown garages.

Commuter service is the other area that deserves careful attention when Mr. Balog's department writes specifications for future operating proposals.

At the present time, Mr. Morgan's Water Shuttle is the only company that provides morning commuting to Baltimoreans going to work downtown. His rival, Ed Kane of Water Taxi, sees commuter service as a future possibility but doubts there is adequate demand for it now. He may be right. Yet with proper promotion and reliable service, things could change, particularly as the Canton waterfront grows.

Baltimore's waterborne shuttle services are a developing harbor transportation resource. At this stage, they should not be viewed by the city solely on the basis of highest franchise fees. Instead, those services ought to be encouraged, through competition, as an amenity that can promote residential and business use of various harbor neighborhoods.

It is important that the city's specifications for future proposals reflect this belief.

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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