Harbor water taxi survey delayed

Daily Pilot

Without financial means to learn how many passengers would use a water taxi service in Newport Harbor, or how much they'd pay, plans to have the service by 2011 may have to be scuttled.

"I think someday it'll probably come. I think for now it's probably stalled," said Michael McNamara, chairman of the city's Summer Water Taxi Exploratory Committee. "I think part of it is the economy."

At Newport Beach's April 27 City Council meeting, the committee members requested a $12,500 pledge from the city if they could raise equal funds for a summer public survey about a water taxi service.

The council rejected the request, citing the economy and the several businesses interested in servicing the harbor without a survey, among other factors.

"I have all sorts of questions about this project," said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner at the meeting. "Will it actually have an impact on traffic? Will it have a positive impact on businesses? If they're interested, why don't they do the research themselves?"

The council created the exploratory committee last year to investigate the costs, feasibility and possible need for a water taxi service in Newport Harbor.

The committee was told to try to come up with a survey for summer tourists this year, with a possible test run of a water taxi service in summer 2011.

Given the breadth of the survey, the committee recommended that it be performed by professionals. The going rate was about $25,000, McNamara told the council.

"I think in fairness to the council, they felt they were kind of stretched [financially]," McNamara said. "I think you could call it a setback. It's a matter of if it's needed."

The city could also open up the bidding process for potential taxi services. Even with that, the city would have to fix some harbor docks and change local ordinances to permit private businesses on public docks, council members said.

McNamara said the committee might try to attach taxi service-related questions to the city's own summer survey on its summer "Visit Newport Beach" survey and possibly the local visitor bureau's survey in the fall.

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