Local cruise line launching ‘Kingston Water Taxi’

The proposed route for the Kingston Water Taxi, which will allow pedestrian traffic to traverse the Cataraqui River while the LaSalle Causeway is out of service. Image via Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises.

Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises has announced a new initiative that many on both sides of the Cataraqui River are certain to welcome with the LaSalle Causeway now literally in pieces.

Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises said it is working in collaboration with the City of Kingston, Tourism Kingston, Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Kingston, and the St. Lawrence Parks Commission to offer the “Kingston Water Taxi.” Traversing the downtown Kingston waterway from Crawford Wharf and the east end of the city at HMCS Cataraqui Jetty, the Kingston Water Taxi will offer pedestrian traffic a means of crossing the water via a three-minute boat ride, Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises told Kingstonist on Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2024.

The local cruise line company said that a pilot of the project will run through June and July 2024, during which a water taxi will depart in each direction every 20 minutes, five days a week.

“The vessel we are leasing for this service is a tri-pontoon water taxi vessel currently owned by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission,” said Eric Ferguson, General Manager of Kingston Destination Group, which operates Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises.

“We expect it to arrive in Kingston on Thursday.”

As such, the new Kingston Water Taxi service may be available as soon as the coming weekend, Ferguson shared.

“This weekend’s weather forecast does not look favourable to start this operation, because of high winds,” he said.

“Therefore, June 29 will still be ‘official’ launch… however the actual time of the first passage with passengers aboard may be moved to a later date.”

The following is the tentative schedule for the week ahead, weather depending:

Saturday, Jun. 29: 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jun. 30: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Jul. 1: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Jul. 2: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday-Thursday: Day off
Friday+: TBD.

No reservations are needed for tickets to board the Kingston Water Taxi – tickets can only be attained in person on a walk-up only basis. The service will begin as a pilot project to assess demand from Kingston residents and visitors, and the schedule is subject to change. Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises suggests that residents check out the Kingston Water Taxi ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ and the Kingston Water Taxi Terms, and sign up for email updates.

A look at where the Kingston Water Taxi will dock on the east side of the river. Image via Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises.

“With the LaSalle Causeway closed, our community needs a way to stay connected. The Kingston Water Taxi will ensure residents, commuters, and visitors can continue to enjoy our city. At Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises, we’re experienced at providing safe experiences on the water, so this was a natural fit for us to explore. This is a made-in-Kingston temporary solution to get pedestrians moving across the Cataraqui River again,” Ferguson said, noting that tourism generates “just short of a billion dollars of economic impact for Kingston every year.”

“Kingston’s summer tourism season is vital for our local economy. This water taxi service ensures that visitors can still easily enjoy everything our beautiful city has to offer without interruption, especially Fort Henry,” he continued.

“Adding a fourth vessel to our fleet, even temporarily, has been an interesting challenge, and it necessarily takes some time to work through the regulatory approvals on a new operation like this. But we’re thrilled with the made-in-Canada, open-air water taxi vessel that we’ll be introducing on this service. With a 150-horsepower motor on a light, modern, aluminum tri-hull design, this will be the fastest boat in our fleet!”

Ferguson went on to say that offering a water taxi service, free of charge, is a way Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises “can support Kingston while the bridge is unavailable.”

“We’re glad to partner with organizations who will help to reduce the usual costs of operating a service like this by offering assistance in various ways, but we’ve structured our agreements with each partner to not achieve any profit from this water taxi. We’re in the tourism business and we’ll benefit in other ways as more visitors, attraction employees, and Kingston residents move easily across the river. But the water taxi itself will not be a profit centre for us,” he said.

The ramp at Crawford Wharf where the Kingston Water Taxi will dock on the west side of the river. Photo via Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises.

Ferguson further explained that, during the pilot phase of the project to assess demands and find a schedule that “maximizes the value for both residents and visitors,” the organization expects to adjust the schedule for the Kingston Water Taxi week-by-week.

“For every passenger vessel operator in Canada, a major challenge is staffing. We’re staffed and ready to operate five days a week but to expand further, we’ll need to hire; we’re interested in connecting with marine navigation officers, including retired Canadian Armed Forces personnel, who have relevant experience and certifications in Canada,” he added.

For more information, visit www.kingstonwatertaxi.ca.

Kingstonist has inquired as to how this project is being funded and by whom. This article will be updated when further information becomes available.


Update (Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2024, at 3:45 p.m.):
In response to Kingstonist inquiries about how much the Kingston Water Taxi project will cost, how it is being funded and by whom, Eric Ferguson, Executive Director of Kingston Destination Group (which operates Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises), directed Kingstonist to Krista Leclair, Executive Director of Kingston Accommodation Partners.

Kingstonist followed up with LeClair, who indicated that the project is “really a KDG initiative,” referring to Kingston Destination Group, and noting that “community members have been proud to come together to help get it off the ground to meet an urgent need.”

“Any dollars contributed to date have been [contributed] with the intention of seeking full remuneration from the Federal Government,” LeClair told Kingstonist in an email.

“This exciting partnership will help residents, employees, and visitors, and we’re happy to see it kicking off.”

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