There may soon be a new way to travel between Sarasota Bay and Anna Maria Island — a water taxi service.
Sherman Baldwin, general manager and senior captain of the Bradenton Beach-based Paradise Boat Tours, presented his plan to bring a ferry boat service to the area’s waterways on Tuesday before the Sarasota City Commission. He said he plans to submit his permit application Thursday. The parent company of Paradise Boat Tours is Sarasota-based TevaTan LLC Company.
“I’ve boated in this community and I’m very familiar with the waterways of this community since 1986,” said Baldwin, who is a Sarasota resident. “There are so many communities that would die to have this traffic mitigating programming available and we’re blessed to have these waterways. It’s always been in my mind for a long time. When we decided to commission a boat to have it ready for the 2018 season, it was gnawing at me ... why can’t we have anything now? There’s no time like the present.”
There are so many communities that would die to have this traffic mitigating programming available and we’re blessed to have these waterways. It’s always been in my mind for a long time.
Sherman Baldwin, senior captain of Paradise Boat Tours
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Once Baldwin submits his application, it will be reviewed by city staff, said Steven Stancel, chief planner for the city of Sarasota. It will then go before the city commission for approval.
“If successful, it could eliminate some of the vehicular trips coming in and out of Sarasota from the barrier islands,” Stancel said. “There are certain periods of the day when congestion does occur and one of the objectives of this service is to provide for workers and not just tourists, and so it does have the possibility of reducing a certain number of vehicle trips during the morning and p.m. peak periods.”
A 2003 Sarasota city ordinance provides guidelines for anyone wanting to apply for a water taxi permit. According to Stancel, regulations include the prohibition of loud speakers and operation within designated swimming areas.
A ferry boat is being transported from St. Thomas for the proposed service. Should the project come to fruition, a round trip would cost $12.50 per passenger.
Baldwin, 57, said his team is already in discussions and has secured agreements with a number of merchants for $5 off coupons that can add value to each ticket.
If successful, it could eliminate some of the vehicular trips coming in and out of Sarasota from the barrier islands.
Steven Stancel, chief planner for city of Sarasota
“It would come with five $5 coupons,” he said.
This is not the first time Baldwin has brought his vision to city officials. In 2015, the decades-long captain presented at a Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting in Bradenton Beach his desire to bring a daily water shuttle from the Bradenton Riverwalk to the Anna Maria City Pier, followed by stops in Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Longboat Key and Cortez. At the time, it was a move Baldwin said could help alleviate the 7-mile barrier island’s traffic congestion issues.
“This is what this finally is,” Baldwin said of his vision, adding that a second phase would be to get another boat to service passengers from the Bradenton Riverwalk to the island.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said Thursday that the new proposed water taxi service is not what he’s interested in for the city of Anna Maria.
“What he’s offering is a tourist service. It’s not a functional water taxi. It’s a tourist taxi,” Murphy said. “What I’m looking for is a functional water taxi service where people can come to work and then go home. That’s what I’m interested in. It’s not something you do as a recreational tool.”
According to Baldwin, people are interested in finding non-land based transportation services in Southwest Florida.
“And I think everyone agrees that this is something that has to happen and we hope we are part of that solution,” he said.