On May 25, six Metro stations within Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties closed for the duration of the summer, leaving local commuters to find alternate ways of getting in and out of Washington, DC. In an effort to make that process less of a challenge, the city of Alexandria worked with local organizations to plan ahead and create other options for everyone, including additional commuter service via Entertainment Cruise’s water taxi along the Potomac River.
The water taxi service, which consists of six yellow boats, gives commuters the option of taking the scenic route to work between National Harbor, Alexandria and The Wharf in both the mornings and evenings, Monday through Friday. Plus, additional routes are offered during non-commuter hours, as well as on the weekends.
On Memorial Day, the company added seven departures before 9:45 a.m., with the very first boat of the day leaving from The Wharf at 6:05 a.m., arriving to pick up passengers in Alexandria just 25 minutes later. The boat then leaves from Alexandria at 6:40 a.m. and continues at a steady pace on a loop for the entirety of the day, ending with an 8:30 p.m. departure from The Wharf on weekdays.
Since the Metro summer shutdown began, there has been a 40-45% increase in ridership during the week, according to mid-Atlantic Regional Vice President of Entertainment Cruises Mary Rinaldo.
“We’re coming in starting the boats up at 5:30 a.m. to get those going,” says captain Leighton Good, who has been working with the company since 2010 and driving the yellow boats since they were purchased about two years ago. “These boats are a lot faster than any of the other boats we have in our fleet. They go up to 28 knots, which is about 24 miles per hour.”
Good drives both the sightseeing boats and the water taxis on a regular basis, where he is able to chat with the passengers, which is his favorite part of the workday. While talking to guests and driving the boat, he has noticed a lot more people and a lot more ease in the daily commute.
“People really enjoy riding these boats because they have a lot of options,” Good explains. “They can sit upstairs on the top deck out in the sun and on hot days like today they can sit inside in the air conditioned cabin. Even if people have to go out of their way to get to the boat, they prefer it because it’s much more relaxing.”
Every water taxi has free Wi-Fi, there are bike racks for those who cycle to the boats and The Wharf dock is conveniently situated by two functioning Metro stations, L’Enfant Plaza and Waterfront Station.
While commuter passes are priced at $199 and valid through December, the city of Alexandria is offering residents of the city who work in the District a $100 reimbursement for the duration of the shutdown. According to Rinaldo, the company plans on putting in a request to the city manager to continue the commuter runs following the end of the summer shutdown on Sept. 8.
“I think after a lot of people start riding the boats, even after the Metro’s back in service, they’re not going to want to go back,” says Good. “It’s just a better way to get there.”
This piece is a part of our Summer Platform Improvement Project coverage. We will continue to update and inform the community about the project throughout the summer. See more coverage here.