Water buses to replace Fort Lauderdale 'taxi' fleet

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Canal Boats, which operates as Water Taxi Inc., a provider of public transportation and tours using the city's Intracoastal Waterway and canals, added service with three larger vessels, each with 70 seats.

The vessels are operated under the name Water Bus.

Five more Water Bus craft are on order and are to be delivered between now and the second quarter of 2002, according to Bob Bekoff, owner.

When all of these craft are placed into service, the 27-passenger Water Taxis will be retired from regular service, he said.

For family visitors to Fort Lauderdale, the waterborne service represents good value because the all-day pass for the Water Bus and Water Taxi was reduced to $5 (from $16), Bekoff noted.

The service provides access to shopping, restaurants, hotels, museums, businesses and residential areas.

From a sightseeing standpoint, visitors can view spectacular waterfront homes, yachts and the lush landscaping that lines many of the canals.

The captains provide colorful narration, as well.

Over the years, increased demand enabled Water Taxi Inc. to improve accessibility, frequency and comfort and at the same time minimize fares.

The sleek, U.S. Coast Guard-certified Water Buses, built in Fort Lauderdale, feature both indoor (air-conditioned) and outdoor seating areas with an atrium-like roof.

The 42-foot vessels are powered by a bio-diesel, hybrid electric engine for a ride that is smoother for passengers and friendlier to the environment.

Clients can embark and disembark around the city with the use of full or multiday passes.

They also can combine transport by Water Bus with the city's more traditional land bus service if they wish.

In 2000, the Water Taxi system transported some 300,000 passengers, mainly along the Intracoastal Waterway.

With a 40% increase in operating hours and significantly lower fares, achieved in part because of a federal subsidy, Water Taxi's management anticipates the Water Buses will be a major means of transportation and sightseeing for the area's 7.4 million visitors each year.

For bulk sales information, offering commissions of 10% or more, contact Michelle Williams, director of sales for Water Taxi, at (954) 467-6677.

For area information, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 356-1662 or view the Web site at www.sunny.org.

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