(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Now that Baltimore’s water taxi system is in the portfolio of Kevin Plank-backed Sagamore Ventures, Baltimore’s favorite form of transportation has a new look.
The new water taxis will be 55-foot vessels with room for about 50 people. The first boat is set to start appearing on the harbor in the coming weeks, said Sagamore Ventures Managing Partner Demian Costa. More are set to follow in 2017, and the fleet will eventually include 10 new boats that will be swapped out for the existing water taxis.
We got a look at the Key’s Anthem (and a ride with Costa at the helm) on Monday morning.
The new water taxi is looking to rekindle a vessel from the Bay’s past. The team that is custom-building the boats from Maritime Applied Physics Corp. took primary inspiration from a fishing boat known as the deadrise. They researched how it maneuvered and how it sat in the water. The boats proved useful for the harbor because they designed for shallower waters and offer open space to fit passengers.
“The cool thing about this is you would only see this boat on the Cheseapeake,” said Maritime Applied Physics Production Manager Nathan Baugher. “There’s kind of a common thread from the interior layout to the transom and the bow and the windows up front, it all pays respect back to the Chesapeake Bay deadrise.”
The water taxi was a rare commercial project for the Brooklyn company that builds boats for the U.S. Navy. Pieces of the boat such as the seats and canvas were also made in Baltimore.
The base design was adapted for modern use, with special attention paid to ergonomic design of the seats for comfort, accessibility considerations, room for bicycles and the ability to open and close depending on the weather. Twin electric/hybrid diesel engines and a system that can report fuel economy and other stats via app also nod to sustainability. They even held back on horsepower, which also helped reduce cost.
The modern update also means tech upgrades. The boats will have WiFi, and every third seat has a USB port underneath to charge a cellphone or laptop. The water taxis also have maritime GPS built in. Sagamore is also working on an on-demand system that will be like Uber but for water taxi.
The transition from pulling in fish and crabs to carrying people is a reflection of what’s needed in Baltimore today, Costa said.
“That’s what we’re really looking to do is to rebrand this as a transportation network that exists for folks in Baltimore city to get around,” Costa said. Visitors are still likely to partake, but Sagamore wants to provide job connections at Plank-owned developments and beyond.
With that comes an expansion of stops. The water taxi’s existing Fells Point stop can connect the Sagamore-owned Pendry Hotel by the water in Fells Point to Nick’s Fish House and City Garage and perhaps the Sagamore Rye distillery.
Beyond stuff owned by Kevin Plank, existing tech hubs already on the water taxi in Canton, Inner Harbor, Locust Point and Federal Hill could find a new connection and stops are planned in harbor-adjacent communities like Cherry Hill and Westport that need transit options. The plan is to expand from 12 to 21 stops by 2017.