Captain Doug Chyna has watched the sun rise from the Chicago River for the last 10 years.
“My favorite part of the day is when I’m pulling up to Michigan Avenue and the sun is coming up over the lake and over the bridge,” Chyna said. “Every day it’s absolutely breathtaking and I get to see that every morning.”
Every day, roughly St. Patrick’s Day through Thanksgiving, he and other drivers of Wendella’s Chicago Water Taxis take about a thousand commuters and tourists to Michigan Ave, Ogilive and Union Stations, Clark and LaSalle and Chinatown.
“People that ride this, it’s a little like a 10 minute vacation for them,” Chyna says, as he steers the taxi known as Bravo down the river. “I mean, I have no stop lights, no pedestrians walking in front of me, maybe swimming sometimes, but not walking in front of me.”
The Chicago Water Taxi service is ringing in its 50th anniversary Thursday with free rides all day long. For every rider who steps aboard one of their vessels, Wendella will donate $3 – or the normal one-way ticket price – to the Ann and Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital.
James Connelly was one of the free riders Thursday. He works downtown in the Dirksen Federal Building, but sometimes he has meetings on Michigan Ave, so he uses the water taxi as a way to beat rush hour traffic.
“It’s a great way to kind of decompress, as well as get a great view of the city,” Connelly said.
According to Chicago Water Taxi manager Andrew Sargis, the service can be more than just a soothing ride with great views. He says the Chicago
River is underutilized, and the water taxi could be the answer to solving future transportation issues.
“We could mitigate pollution, congestion on the roads and really help meet the transportation expectations of this city as it grows over the next 50 years,” Sargis said.
The free rides last all day Thursday.