Some business owners are worried about a slow summer near the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop, but expanded water taxi service may pick up some of the slack. Nine south side stations are closed until October for reconstruction.
Just down the street from the Chinatown Red Line, Michelle Zhang was ringing up a steady stream of newspapers and lottery tickets in her gift shop. But she said she’s concerned about the Red Line.
“I think it’s no good for the business,” she said. The street was hopping with locals getting groceries, tea and pastries — it’s tourist shoppers that may be more of a concern. In another gift shop, Yat Wong agrees.
“I think it will affect me a lot since the station is closed for more than 5 months, I guess, but nothing I can do,” he said. And he says his daughter’s been rerouted to school, as have other kids he knows. “Almost affect everyone in Chinatown, I guess. Every family.”
Starting Tuesday, commuters looking for an alternate to the Red Line have a new way to travel between Chinatown and downtown: a water taxi. The Chinatown taxi has operated on weekends since 2009, and this year they’ve added a new black and yellow boat to the fleet that will be used to provide weekday service.
“It’s a great alternative if for no reason other than it’s more fun and scenic,” said Andrew Sargis, Chief of Operations of the Chicago Water Taxi, which is a private subsidiary of Wendella Sightseeing.
A boat will depart from Ping Tom Memorial Park every twenty minutes from 10am to 9pm, and tickets are $4 one way. The ride to near Union Station is about 12 to 15 minutes, and a transfer can get you further north or east along the Chicago River.
But total travel time depends on traffic.
“We can get barge traffic, we can get kayakers, we can get other commercial boat traffic,” said Sargis, adding that on the weekends, sailboats can also be trouble.
Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him @lewispants.