Water taxi makes a splash in Pentwater.

July 26, 2019

Captain Lee Price at the helm.

Water taxi makes a splash in Pentwater.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

PENTWATER – There is a new unique mode of public transportation making a splash in the quaint Village of Pentwater.

The water taxi service just debuted this week, and residents and visitors alike will be hooked.

Rides across Pentwater Lake are free, and sunset tours around the lake and through the channel into Lake Michigan are $20 per person.

The idea of a water taxi is something village officials have kicked around for the last several years. But after the closure of Longbridge Road May 1, the water taxi plan solidified. The road flooded due to high water levels, along with heavy rains last spring.

Instead of a quick passage over the bridge to get from one side of the lake to the other, now residents have a 14-mile detour. Village Manager Chris Brown said 47 percent of Pentwater Township residents have to take the detour, and 12 percent of village residents are affected.

“It impacts commerce,” Brown said. “They’re being directed to drive halfway back to Hart.” Many folks may choose to do their shopping in the neighboring town rather than in their own community.

Dilan Kay and Janaee Raynor of New York City aboard the Pentwater water taxi.

The 16-passenger taxi is a 1968 retired Navy oil boat that is in “pristine shape,” Brown said. Captain Lee Price greets passengers with a friendly smile and a warm welcome.

The village and the township each contributed $10,000 for the purchase of the boat and outfitting costs, such as a life preservers, safety equipment and inspection fees, Brown said. The boat was purchased for $12,000 from the Inland Seas Education Association, which is a non-profit organization based in Suttons Bay near Traverse City.

Trips across the lake occur every two hours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. On Friday and Saturday, hours extend until midnight.

Pick-up points are at the township boat launch off Longbridge Road and at the end of Manchester Street across the lake from the Pentwater Yacht Club. Both return to the Village Municipal Marina, where riders can also be picked up. A new dock was installed at the Manchester Street location.

The $20 fare for sunset cruises goes toward operating costs, Brown said.

Since the village is just getting its feet wet with the project, scheduling times may be adjusted depending on demand, the village manager said. The taxi took its maiden voyage in Pentwater Wednesday, July 24, so the service is in the early stages.

Village officials are expecting the taxi service to run through some time in September.

The village started another progressive and environmentally-friendly bike share program a few years ago that helps alleviate parking problems in the small village. They are hoping the water taxi provides the same benefit. Both programs make attendance at village events, such as the big Homecoming celebration Aug. 8-10, more accessible, Brown said.

“We’re a beach town,” he said. “When the water is warm, we’re busy.”

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