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Water taxi businesses growing in Tampa

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 18:23:25-05

Some Tampa Bay business owners think they’ve come up with a way to get you to concerts and sporting events faster and cheaper.

But are water taxis really a convenient way to get around downtown Tampa?

Linde Whitney says every time she drives in the area it’s bumper to bumper traffic.

“It's like, 'Oh no not that.' But if they had easier ways to get to and from and park in one central space that would be amazing,” Whitney said.

The possible solution could be water taxis.

Yacht Starship is the latest company to jump on board.

In two weeks, it’s launching a pirate-themed service. Every hour it will pick and drop people off along the Riverwalk like a bus.

“The cost to take an all-day cruise is $15 for adults and $8 for children,” said Troy Manthey with Yacht Starship.

But it’s nothing new. A decade ago, Capt. Larry Salkin started his business.

“The name of all of our boats are 'Never Never Land' and that's because I never want to be on land,” said Salkin with Tampa Water Taxi Company.

On average he zips around the Hillsborough River 20 times per day.

“We have a tremendous following of residents who use us year after year after year,” he said.

For $5 he can get you from Curtis Hixon Park to Amalie Arena in 12 minutes.

“I see cars backed up all the way to Bayshore Boulevard trying to get to the arena,” Salkin said.

During a sporting event or concert, that may be faster.

But here’s the deal. In reality, driving would take you five minutes without traffic.

In a cab or Uber that’s less than $8.

But Salkin said it’s the view that keeps people coming back.

“The reason why it's amazing is that we have wildlife come through here. I’ve had dolphins come right up here,” he said.

So most days water taxis probably aren't the most convenient choice if you're in a hurry, but on some occasions it could be a good alternative.

“You could park and go wherever you want to go. It would be nice to be on the water in Tampa,” said Whitney.

There’s a proposal for a ferry between St Petersburg and Tampa. Both cities want it up and running by October.

But that’s only if they can find $1 million to fund it.