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City news
Water Taxis May Boost Mobility in City
06.14.2004 14:55

Water Taxi Water "marshrutki" seem like an obvious means of transportation in cities like St. Petersburg, but it has taken a long time for them to come to the banks of local rivers and canals. In Venice, by comparison, water buses have been operating since 1881.

Some 20 boats carrying from 25 to 70 passengers circulate once an hour on four different routes from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This is still a far cry from the developed waterways of Amsterdam or Venice. Venetian water buses (motoscafo) holding about 150 passengers circulate on the Grand Canal and within the city center every 10 to 15 minutes, while bigger boats (motonave) carrying up to 1,000 passengers travel between Venice's major islands.

One stop on any route costs 30 rubles ($1), while the entire journey is a bargain at 150 rubles to 200 rubles depending on the distance. The routes operate right in the center, mainly between major museums, palaces, theaters and tourist attractions. Another option is an all-day, travel-as-you-please ticket for 350 rubles.

These prices compare favorably to the private hire of boats which costs $50 to $70 per hour. River cruises are in the same price with water buses (150 rubles on workdays and 200 rubles on weekends) but departures are far less regular.

Six local cruise operators, including Astra-Marin, Aqua-Excurs, Driver, Matisov Ostrov, Nord Soyuz and Samson have joined with the St. Petersburg Tourist Information Center to create the City Water Bus project.

Route A starts and ends at the Peter and Paul Fortress, stopping near the Kunstkamera, the Admiralty (and Winter Palace), the cruiser Avrora, the Summer Garden, the Russian Museum's Mikhailovsky Castle and the Field of Mars, the Alexander Pushkin Apartment Museum at 12 Naberezhnaya Reki Moiki and Palace Square.

Route B begins and ends by Kazan Cathedral, making stops near the Church on the Spilled Blood, the Russian Museum, the Summer Garden, the Field of Mars, Nevsky Prospekt (Anichkov Palace), the Alexandrinsky Theater, Nikolsky Cathedral, the Mariinsky Theater and Sennaya Ploshchad.

Route C starts near the Russian Museum's Stroganov Palace on Nevsky Prospekt, navigating between Palace Square (Zimnyaya Kanavka), Konyushennaya Square, the Russian Museum (and the Field of Mars), the Alexandrinsky Theater, Nikolsky Cathedral and the Mariinsky Theater. The final stop is St. Isaac's Cathedral.

Route D begins by the Admiralty and circulates between the Hermitage, Smolny Cathedral, the Okhtinskaya Hotel, the cruiser Avrora, the Peter and Paul Fortress and St. Isaac's Cathedral.

Each route takes from 1 to 1 1/2 hours to complete.

Valentin Zakharov, press secretary of the city's tourism committee, said a fifth route will be introduced soon to operate on weekends and go from the Admiralty to Yelagin Island's popular Central Park For Culture and Rest.

If the water bus idea proves successful, more boats will be involved next year, with a general design developed to distinguish the buses from the other boats. It has already been proposed to paint the waterbuses in yellow, perhaps with a nod to New York taxis.

Dmitry Belinsky, director of the City Water Bus project, said setting up an efficient floating buses system is a very time-consuming process.

"The project is going to take at least a year to take real shape," he said, adding the operators don't rule out financial losses during the initial period." We need to determine at least the approximate passenger flow to be able to make plans. It is now difficult to predict public interest in water buses and only time can tell."

Water excursions are already a popular entertainment in St. Petersburg.

According to city statistics, in 2002 about 700,000 people took water trips, while in 2003 this service was used by some 900,000 people.

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