Street Smart Chicago

Have a Car-Free Summer: Two If By Sea, a pair of ways to take the river

City Life, Green, Loop, Transit Add comments

For office workers who need to get from downtown Metra stations to their jobs elsewhere in the Loop, a ride on a water taxi provides a pause that refreshes.

“It’s so peaceful,” say Patrick Giordano, an attorney who practices energy law. “And the environmental benefits are very important.”

Giordano says some days he has to drive to work from Evanston but usually he takes Metra to the Ogilvie Center, 500 West Madison, walks a block east to the river and catches Wendella’s Chicago Water Taxi to his Michigan Avenue firm. “It makes you feel like you’re in Seattle taking the ferry from Bainbridge Island into the city,” he says.

Wendella makes runs every fifteen minutes or so between Madison, LaSalle and Michigan all day long on weekdays, plus trips to Chinatown on weekends. Shoreline Water Taxis offers rush hour service from Adams Street, near Union Station, to Michigan for commuters, plus additional routes to Navy Pier and the Museum Campus for tourists. Shoreline is a little pricey, but Wendella, at $2 a ride, $40 for a monthly pass, compares favorably to the CTA.

Nearing 8:30am on a Tuesday morning, two dozen professionals file onto Wendella’s eastbound water taxi; most of them are silently reading the paper or listening to iPods as the yellow checkered boat pulls away from the dock. Away from the cacophony of car traffic, the ride is calm and quiet as architectural gems like the Civic Opera House, 333 Wacker Drive and the Merchandise Mart tower above the vessel. CTA buses chug across bridges overhead while a seagull cries nearby.

Upstairs in the bridge Captain Doug Chyna says, “Welcome to my cubicle, the best one in the city. It travels.” While his work is usually pleasantly uneventful, Chyna says he occasionally has had to rescue people attempting suicide by jumping off the bridges. “That makes for an exciting day,” he says.

As the passengers leave the river at Michigan Avenue, deckhand Eric Mackey cheerfully sends them off to their desks: “Remember folks—the week is almost half over.” (John Greenfield)

 Chicago Water Taxi,, (312)337-1446; Shoreline Water Taxis,, (312)222-9328

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