Water taxis considered to relieve traffic

May 27, 2008 4:49:53 PM PDT
Gasoline prices keep hitting new record highs every day. We've told you how more people are taking the bus and riding the metro rail, but now a new alternative in our area may have people taking to the water. City leaders in Seabrook are looking into water taxis.The city of Seabrook is looking at how feasible it might be to put taxis on the waterways that surround the city. Some believe it's an idea that has enormous potential.

Imagine for a moment that the roadway wasn't the only way to get to, from and around Seabrook.

"I think that's a great idea," said tourist Monica Parsinger. "You are not so in stress with the traffic."

What if you could get around by water?

Commuter Myron Johnson said, "Sounds like a great idea."

The city of Seabrook is spending $60,000 to look at whether a water taxi like those in Seattle or New York would be a good way to combat the commuting crunch anda way to spark development along the waterfront.

Seabrook Mayor Gary Renola explained, "One of the things we've been trying to do for several years is increase the economic development for the city."

Talks are already underway to build a five star Westin hotel in Seabrook, and city leaders say water taxis could spark further interest in construction.

"I think it's a worthwhile concept to look at," said Seabrook City Manager Chuck Pinto. "We are strategically looking at it."

Pinto says there is great potential to build upon existing waterways in the region -- generally from the new Port of Houston cruise terminal, down Galveston Bay, into Clear Lake, up Taylor Lake, then back across to the bay. Specific docking sites have not yet been identified.

"All these areas are kind of tied together," Pinto said. "What helps one, helps us all."

That's a sticking point for one former city councilman.

"My take on that is it's a waste of Seabrook tax money," said former Seabrook city council member Pete Braccio.

It worries Braccio that no other nearby city is participating in the study, let alone any larger plans.

He said, "Whether or not it's a benefit for the city of Seabrook is another question."

Advocates say there's nothing to question. They say sales tax revenue will fund the study and that it ultimately will help determine if other cities will partner with them, physically and financially, to make the water taxi concept here a success.

The study will take about 90 days to complete. The city council ultimately will decide whether to move forward with the project.

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