It’s time for a water taxi service in Lee County.
The locals have long complained about the amount of beach traffic on our streets, especially during the winter months, and I honestly believe this would be a perfect solution. The service could operate from dawn to dusk, or later, and make stops in downtown Fort Myers, Sanibel, Captiva and Fort Myers Beach. I can’t believe that a wealthy entrepreneur hasn’t already jumped on this opportunity. Are you listening Mr. Branson?
I did a recent Google search for ‘lee county water taxi’ and I’ll give credit where credit is due. A few popped up, but they were all very limited in scope. Departure and arrival points were scarce and in most cases only ran from point A to point B. Reservations were also required. That’s not the type of water taxi service I’m thinking about. My idea is more along the lines of services operating in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and at Disney World in Orlando.
Tampa’s Pirate Water Taxi has 15 stops along the Hillsborough River and the Tampa Riverwalk. They service attractions, museums, restaurants and parks and operate from 11:30AM until 10:00PM Sunday-Thursday. They offer later hours on Friday and Saturday and also have happy hour cruises.
Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi runs scheduled routes all along the waterways of Broward County and sometimes extends them down to Miami, mostly for special events like the recent Miami International Boat Show. They have multiple routes that cover approximately 22 stops. It operates from 10:00AM to 10:00PM every day and is very similar to bus service. There’s a schedule for stops and all you have to do is show up, board, pay and you are on your way. It’s much more relaxing than doing the drive thing. Especially in the city.
Not only does Disney World have a famous Monorail to move folks quickly from park to park, they also have a water transportation system with ferries and water taxis. These too help transport visitors from place to place within the parks and makes getting around much easier, especially during special events.
I think these examples would in one way or another work well in Lee County. After all, we have lots of water and our roads are getting more and more crowded. Water taxi stations could be located near Punta Rassa with others on Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach and downtown Fort Myers. Routes could cover Fort Myers Beach, the Caloosahatchee River, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Matlacha Pass and Pine Island with stops at many popular spots including parks, resorts, watering holes and restaurants.
The boats used in existing taxi services hold about 20 passengers and are comfortable even when the weather and winds kick up. The captains are licensed and not only pilot you to your destination, they also talk about local color and history. In Tampa and Fort Lauderdale passengers can buy tickets in advance and there are options for single months and annual passes. I know a few business people in Fort Lauderdale that actually commute using the water taxis. I think that would be a great way to head for work in the morning and home in the evening.
Traffic on and off Fort Myers Beach is a mess year round and especially during season. Building expansion is not going to stop and cold frostbitten northerners are not going to stop coming to escape the ice and snow. Something has to give and there’s no more room for roads. So why not look into water transportation? I believe it will work and perhaps the city leaders need to start researching a solution. I’m betting a lot of beach goers would much rather travel by boat than sit in a traffic jam on the Matanzas Pass bridge.
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman and retired spin & fly fishing guide. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association.