New harbor shuttle sails for commuters

Service to connect high-technology sites along city's waterfront

May 19, 2000|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

How's this for a morning commute? Instead of sweating in Beltway traffic, you cruise across the water on a 57-foot-long floating cafe, sipping coffee under a red and white canvas awning as the sun rises over Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

A nonprofit organization will launch a commuter boat shuttle service Tuesday to ferry workers who live along Baltimore's waterfront to appointments and meetings in the growing number of high-technology companies sprouting in former industrial buildings.

The first Seaport Taxi pushed off yesterday from the Tide Point office complex in Locust Point, carrying reporters on a tour of office development sites.

"This will be a reliable, dependable commuter system that moves people around the harbor from early in the morning to late at night," said James Piper Bond, president of the Living Classrooms Foundation, which bought the 10 boats in April.

The cruise was one of a series of events this week aimed at boosting the image of Baltimore's industrial waterfront as a "digital harbor," a haven for high-technology companies.

At 5 p.m. today, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and other officials are scheduled to be hosts of a grand opening for the Emerging Technology Center, an office complex on Boston Street in Canton.

Developer C. William Struever, who has lined up high-technology companies for almost 90 percent of the 385,000 square feet of offices in his Tide Point complex, which is under construction, rode the Seaport Taxi yesterday and pointed to more than a dozen waterfront projects that could bring the city 7.5 million more square feet of office space, 2,300 more homes and 1,200 more hotel rooms over the next five years.

The water shuttle service will link those sites -- including the Inner Harbor East office complex and Cordish Co.'s planned Power Plant Annex offices on Pier Four -- and provide an advantage for the city over the high-technology business area of Northern Virginia, which has traffic jams and sprawl, Struever said.

"To recapture some of the 50,000 jobs Baltimore has lost over the last decade, we should use the magical resource of the city's 35 miles of waterfront as a foundation of our new economy," said Struever. "Baltimore needs to spread its sails and capture the winds of the new economy."

The Living Classroom Foundation's shuttle service will cost $5 a day, with discounts for monthly passes. It will include 10 boats that will make 15 stops around the harbor, moving people every 10 or 15 minutes from stops in Locust Point to the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Canton.

The service will differ from existing shuttles because it is designed for commuters and tourists.

It will have posted pickup times, will serve coffee and juice in the morning, and will be dependable enough to allow a business person to make it to meetings on time, foundation officials said.

The boats will also provide job training for about 30 city youths.

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