8 thoughts on “Public Weighs in on River Barge Design Finalists

  1. In reference to the commuter barges. I would suggest those be designed so that they are climate controlled for the hot summers and cold winters, but able to open up if the day is nice, glass see through of course. Produce some that carry around 10-15. Others that can taxi 3-6, able to get folks quickly from one part of the Riverwalk to the other, who are not in it to sight see, as it were. It will be cool to see the river used as an additional transportation mode. #mytwocentsworth.

  2. One major issue that seems to be ignored is the very heavy tourist traffic on the river during the summer months and December. The multiple stops and traffic during these times make a fast speed impossible. Also, the current fleet was designed for heavy commercial use. These designs, not so much. Canopies won’t work. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  3. I remain dubious about the concept of commuter barges. For one, the river throughout the downtown area is a “no wake” zone. Which means the boats are not permitted to go faster than 5 mph (although I have seen several break that rule). Not only that, but the boat lifts (locks) in the River North area take several minutes to shift the boats to the next level.

    Bottom line: One can probably walk faster to get to their destination. Any other mode of transportation (bicycle, scooter, etc.) will be much more efficient.

    Sorry to be a wet blanket on this one…

  4. In the meantime . . . anything that would assist folks waiting for river taxis or barges near the Tobin Center and other spots (real-time signage? An Amigo standing by? Vending?) could probably help boost the City’s tourism image.

    I walk the northern side of the Riverwalk from Lexington to Houston at least once a week during the work week. I’ve lost track of how many visitors I’ve encountered in recent months just fuming about the river taxis or riverboats and delays or misunderstandings about schedules and loading areas (and I can’t help them).

    Beyond any boat modifications, the contest should really be thinking about overall user experience – including what can be done right now with the least effort to dramatically improve the boat riding experience.

    For example, can you add the boat schedules to Google Maps and Nokia Here (so visitors can use phones and apps to track schedules)? Can you pay for tickets online? Can the tickets be linked to a VIA day pass or other pass? Can you improve signage at stops? Deploy Amigos? Otherwise improve waiting conditions / decrease anxiety about waiting and boarding?

    Can the current boats be modified? Electric motors be added now (to quiet boats and reduce exhaust fumes that can nauseate)? Can you add cushier seats? Train river boat captains to be more engaging (and pay them enough to end tip jars – another stresser diminishing the boat riding experience)?

    I disagree with points above about climate controlled boats (including thinking about the past history of open air pedal boats that could be used to explore the river – up until the 80s – maybe we can bring that back). Downtown, I’m not even sure about climate controlled ground transit as open air and lower-to-the ground vehicles might give us new options for less expensive, better scaled and more fun electric or services.

    For now, think about and work for this year’s visitors.

    • Mark

      All of the funds came from stakeholders who also are Centro partners involved in the Broadway redesign. None of Centro’s core funds underwrite this ideas competition. –RR

  5. I was hoping for some genius solution to the “knees in your neighbor” issue. I think the MetaLab folks got the closest, they increased the distance between the facing seats and with the round stools allow at least the middle of the boat riders to face front. He also said they actually increased boat capacity with their design which will make the city bean counters happy.

    Re the canopies, I wouldn’t pay more to get a canopy on the boats. Part of the riding experience is being able to see all around. Yes I get that the stretch from downtown to the Museum Reach is not shaded but still don’t want canopies to disturb the view. Also, the boat drivers barely make that turn now under that bridge at River Center without scraping the boat so how many canopies will live to fight another day once they’ve gone through there? Have to consider the human nature side of this–design for the imperfect world.

    Re the options with the individual seats. Seems the benches make more sense for families with little kids. Also, the long integrated benches would likely be easier to clean. And as the airline industry is learning, human beings are getting bigger so bench seating again makes more sense to accommodate larger customers.

    And I was disappointed to talk to at least one of the other design team members–they didn’t even ask the boat drivers why their steering stations were raised. I suggested that maybe the drivers needed to be raised to see over the heads of the passengers and see the front of the boat but this one designer didn’t know and hadn’t considered line of sight for drivers in his plan.

    And although each of the designs paid some homage to papel picado in the boat design, for some it appeared to be an afterthought. But again Meta Lab seems to have got it just right. So my vote is MetaLab.

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