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Expanded Chicago water taxi fleet will serve upcoming riverfront megadevelopments

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The 120-passenger “Robert H” will enter service later this year

A bright yellow, two-deck boat passes below a bridge on an urban river. A glassy blue skyscraper is visible on the far bank and a pedestrian filled riverwalk on the near side.
A Chicago water taxi boat heads east beneath the Wabash Avenue bridge.

Chicago’s fleet of iconic bright yellow water taxis is growing its ranks by one. Later this year, Wendella Sightseeing will launch the Robert H, a 60-foot-long vessel currently under construction in Louisiana. The craft will be able to transport 120 passengers and offers a climate-controlled cabin and an accessible wheelchair elevator.

Andrew Sargis, Wendella’s chief of operations, told Loop North News that the expansion is driven by growing demand along current routes as well as in anticipation of upcoming megadevelopments on the river’s north and south branches. New water taxi stops are planned at projects including Lincoln Yards, The 78, the River District, and Southbank.

The new boat’s name honors Wendella president and captain Robert “Bob” Borgström who piloted the company’s first commuter vessel in 1962. With newspaper reporters aboard, Borgström famously raced—and beat—CTA buses from the Chicago & North Western train station (now Ogilvie Transportation Center) to the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

The addition of the Robert H will bring the fleet to five vessels. According to the company’s website, more than 400,000 passengers used the Chicago water taxi service in 2018—equivalent to 8,000 bus trips and over 200,000 car rides. Current stops include Michigan Avenue, Ogilvie Transportation Center, River North, Chicago Avenue, the Chicago Riverwalk, and Chinatown.