Travel by water bus

Read Travel Editor Tom Swick's column on the waterbuses.

Fort Lauderdale has an unusual form of public transportation -- waterbuses.

How they operate

There are two routes. The north route runs between the River House on the New River and Yesterday's (just north of Oakland Park Boulevard) on the Intracoastal. Say you're at the Las Olas Riverfront, around 10 in the morning, and you'd like to go to the Galleria. You could walk to the River House and catch the first boat of the day, at 10:27, or wait where you are and get it five minutes later. You'll arrive at the Doubletree Guest Suites (a short walk from the Galleria) at 11:30.

Why's it take an hour? Because of the stops in between -- Downtowner Saloon, Carrie B., Southeast Ninth Avenue, Water Taxi Base, Coconuts, Beach Place and Seville Street.

What if you arrive at the Riverfront at 10:45? Then your next northbound boat will be at 11:32. Northbound boats run from the Riverfront every hour on the half hour (plus two minutes) until 11:32 p.m. Schedules are posted at each of the stops, which should also have brochures of the schedule that you can take with you. You can also access the schedule at their web site.

If you just want to ride, you could hop on the 11:05 boat that leaves the Riverfront on the south route. After Southeast Ninth Avenue it heads down to 15th Street Fisheries, Marriott Marina, Pier 66 and Bahia Cabana before coming back to the Water Taxi Base. There you can change for a northbound boat. South route boats also run every hour.

On weekends boats run every half hour.

There is also a commuter service, though for the time being it runs only on the Intracoastal, between Bahia Cabana and Doubletree, from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Vessels: There are 18 boats in the fleet; they include the original water taxis, the larger boats, and the new hybrid electric water buses. Of these new buses, three are currently in service, five more will be added before July.

The original taxis have the most charm, but the electric water buses, aside from being more environmentally friendly, are wonderfully comfortable, with a roofed but open section in the back cut off from the air-conditioned middle (whose windows can be rolled up for that open-air feeling).

The character of the boat also depends on the captain. In one day of riding I found history buffs, comics and silent types. Tourists seem to appreciate the first two; after a few hours on the water I was grateful for the third.

Prices: An all-day pass is $5. (Considering the mix of transportation and scenery, this has to be one of the great bargains in South Florida.) A one-way adult fare is $4; senior, disabled and youth fares are $2, but hardly anybody takes a boat for only one trip; almost everybody buys the all-day pass. Three-, seven- and 31-day passes are also available.

Information: Contact Water Bus at 954-467-6677 or check out their website.