Water taxi may soon connect downtown Bradenton to the beaches
BRADENTON, Fla. - In a matter of months, downtown Bradenton hotels could be just a short walk from the beach.
A city-to-sand water taxi service is in the works. The pair of boats would embark from the day dock on the east side of the Green Bridge, sailing to Anna Maria Pier, Bradenton Beach Pier, and Coquina Beach.
"The time is now," said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We've had extreme pent-up demand and visitation. We've had a spike in real estate development. The streets aren't getting any lighter, so we've got to get cars off the roads."
Falcione is working with a west coast Florida-based water taxi operator. The boats could be sailing as early as February. They'd bring up to 49 passengers back and forth, running Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. That schedule could expand with demand. And so could the itinerary, possibly extending to Longboat Key and downtown Sarasota.
READ: MacDill AFB could be new stop for Cross Bay Ferry service to help employees commute to work
A one-way trip would cost $8 for adults, less for kids and seniors, with options of 1-day and 10-day hopper passes.
The pair of boats would embark from the day dock on the east side of the Green Bridge, sailing to Anna Maria Pier, Bradenton Beach Pier, and Coquina Beach.
"For it to be successful, you need to have diversity on the water vessel. I would say 30% have to be residents," Falcione said.
A large part of marketing efforts will be geared toward getting and keeping locals onboard.
READ: Pinellas County commissioners to renegotiate Cross Bay Ferry agreement
"We're looking at possibly offering hospitality employees, service workers that work on Anna Maria Island, free rides to get back and forth to work," Falcione explained.
Manatee County will likely subsidize this venture in the first few years.
The boats could be up sailing as early as February.
"It is another step to get people off the roads in their cars and help transport people to the island," said Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia. "I'm really, really excited about it."
There are a few more details to work out such as what options will be available in the event of a storm, and how much equipment, such as coolers and fishing gear, can be carried on the boats. Falcione hopes to bring the final contract to commissioners for approval at the end of the month.
"I think it's a good idea," shared Carl Ginsberg, owner of The Beach Shop. "I think it would work because a lot of tourists are coming to Bradenton now and staying in the hotels and commuting back and forth to the island. I think they would enjoy it and it would be a successful venture."