Venice on 45
The next River Walk? Woodlands eyes taxing for water taxis
Rome wasn't built in a day, and as The Woodlands township officials have learned, neither was Venice.
The Woodlands Waterway is a 1.4 mile channel built in 2003 to connect some of The Woodlands' biggest attractions: The Woodlands Mall, the shops and restaurants along Waterway Square, the giant Woodlands Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
But despite a fleet of six spiffy 40-person waterway cruiser boats and a route that, combined with the trolleys, covers the vast majority of the Woodlands' shopping and entertainment venues, travel by water taxi has never really caught on. Last year the taxis ran a $40,000 deficit and the average number of riders per boat per hour was a measly two.
To turn the boats into a revenue device and not a financial drain on the city, the Water Taxi Ad Hoc Committee has proposed a one cent increase in the hotel occupancy tax, which is currently taxed at seven cents by the city in addition to federal, state, and other local occupancy taxes of approximately 15 percent.
The one-cent increase, if passed, will go into effect in 2011 and increase to two cents in 2012. The measure is expected to raise $500,000 — that's 50 million overnight stays in Woodlands hotels — and change the waterway taxi finances from a deficit of $40,000 to a surplus of $15,000. After costs for the taxis are covered, extra income will go to alleviate the Woodlands resident tax burden.
Of course, with taxis only leaving every 45 minutes to an hour for the 45-minute round trip and a $5 tariff per person, walking the length of the route is often much more practical and two to three times as fast.
The investment in the water taxis — and a long-stated desire to turn Woodlands waterway into something close to the mammoth San Antonio River Walk — has stirred up controversy among Woodlands residents. As one commented:
"Have these people even been to the San Antonio Riverwalk? The only thing the Riverwalk and the Waterway have in common is water. They have a loooong way to go before the Waterway even comes close. The pointless water taxis should have been one of the last touches, not the first."