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Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Water Taxi Service: Need-To-Know and Should-Know Info

Everything that one *needs* to know about the Water Taxi Service can be found on its web page. Any new information on the service, especially schedule information, is uploaded regularly and in timely fashion.

As one of the service's regulars, I have nothing but praise for the teams on shore - customer service staff and security officers, and the teams on deck - the captains and their crews. They are friendly and polite and, apart from the very rare mechanical failure, they ensure that the service runs on time all the time.

For my readers, the following is the need-to-know information on the service, culled from the Water Taxi Service page:
  1. Terminals - There are two terminals supporting the service at present
    1. No. 1 Wrightson Road, Port of Spain (next to Femmes du Chalet a.k.a. The Breakfast Shed)
    2. Flat Rock, Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando (between WASA and the Fish Market)
  2. Shuttle Service - As part of the service, the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) offers a bus shuttle service from the Port of Spain terminal on two routes through the city. This is at a cost of TT$3.00, and service must be purchased at time of ticket purchase for the ferry. (I'll get the routes and update this post with them later...)
  3. Ticketing - One-way tickets between the two ports in any direction cost TT$15.00. Optional shuttle service in Port of Spain is an add-on cost for a total of TT$18.00. Tickets may be purchased at both terminals on the day of travel or in advance. Ticket purchase is subject to availability of seats on each scheduled sailing.
  4. Safety and Security - There are security officers stationed in the car parks, at both terminal facilities, and there is a security officer assigned to travel on each sailing. Travellers are all scanned and searched at point of entry. To ensure the safety of all passengers, no weapons are allowed on board the boats. Passengers carrying knives or sharp tools are asked to turn them over to the security officer who travels on the boat, and the items will be returned when they disembark. The Management further, in its sole discretion, will refuse to allow on board intoxicated or unruly persons.
  5. Contact Information - Phone contact for the offices at the two terminals is as follows:
    1. San Fernando --- 657- 5434 or 652- 9980
    2. Port of Spain --- 624- 3281 or 624- 6563
  6. Sailing Schedule - The sailing schedule as at last week is as follows. The current schedule is always available at the NIDCO site where any changes to the schedule, including the addition of special sailings, will also be posted. The schedule can be confirmed at the numbers above.

    • Departure from San Fernando:
      • Morning: 5:45, 6:30, 6:50, 8:00, 9:45
      • Evening: 1:15, 2:15, 3:15, 4:15, 4:45, 6:00
    • Departure from Port of Spain:
      • Morning: 6:50, 7:35, 8:00, 9:05, 10:50
      • Evening: 2:30, 3:30, 4:45, 5:30, 6:00, 7:05

After observing some warahoon behaviour while waiting for the boat at both terminals (and I make all apologies here to the Warahoon Amerindian Tribe... these Trinis really give you all a bad name...), the following is added as should-know information about the service.

One. There is no such thing as a "Stand By Ticket"
Tickets are sold for a particular sailing. Period. There is nothing like buying a ticket in the hope that a boat will have seats at time of sailing. If the 140-something seats are sold in advance of the sailing, then that's it. The boat is considered full. They're gone. There are no more tickets.

Two. You can't miss the 3:30 boat and expect to use your 3:30 ticket for the 4:45 sailing
If you paid for a seat for the 3:30 and you missed the sailing, it's your loss. The staff of the Water Taxi Service are not beholden to let you on the next sailing for free, which is what you're basically telling them to do.

Three. The boat is not going to wait for you
The posted sailing time is the sailing time, not a minute before or after. Once the ramp is off the boat, that's it. It's gone. And so is your ticket's usefulness. So time your business to make sure that you arrive at the terminal ahead of sail time.

Four. There is an order to seating and boarding in the terminal
It is not a free-for-all. Persons board the boat row by row from the Terminal's waiting area. If you want on the boat earlier than everyone else then you need to get to the terminal early and sit as close to the front as seats are available. You cannot expect to sit somewhere off to the back and then think that you can board earlier than the people who arrived later. If they're sitting ahead of you, they board before you. It's that simple. Further, if a member of the service staff comes and asks you kindly to move forward and fill out the seats ahead of you and you choose not to move, don't be an idiot and think that you can badger your way on board before your time. Indeed, I wish sometimes that they would invoke the Unruly Passenger Rule so that I don't have to hear you grumble for the entire hour about how piggish the security officers are.

Five. It's not a joy ride
For the majority of the people who use the service, it's a means to get into Port of Spain for work in the morning and back home from work on an afternoon. Consequently, the sailings that are heaviest subscribed are the ones highlighted in bold and red text above. These are the services most likely to be sold out because persons tend to buy their tickets well in advance. It guarantees that they get to work on time, and back home in a similarly timely fashion. This brings me to another point...

Six. It's not you and your friends alone on the boat
The Water Taxi is a commuter service, not an amusement park ride. Be mindful of that when you're chatting loudly and laughing like a howler monkey (you know who you are!) over the low drone of the engines. You have people around you who might be trying to catch a snooze or wind down after a long day at work. Bear that in mind too while you let your children rock excitedly on the seat in front of them as they try to peer out the windows at... well... the Gulf of Paria. Please try to have some consideration for your fellow passengers. It's nice to be nice.

(So I'm being a little bit unkind with the howler monkey bit...Sorry, howler monkeys of the world...)

Seven. It's not Movietowne
Yes, there are monitors and a large flat screen TV on the boats. Right now they're used to show the safety message and life jacket demonstration at the start of the journey. But don't think that you're going to be watching the latest movies released in cinemas nationwide. Walk with an iPod (or similar device), book, magazine or the papers to entertain yourself with.

Now the above are not hard and fast rules. Regulars (read: people who use the service every day) may enjoy a little leeway from time to time, but for the most part know not to take advantage of the staff's good nature.

And finally, for the naysayers...

Eight. The Water Taxi Service works
  • It's not a waste of tax payers' money.
  • In spite of what the naysayers have to say, it's a popular transportation option for which sailings had to be added in order to keep up with demand.
  • There is no way that more buses on the highway could have produced a service that guarantees an hour long trip at regularly scheduled times between Port of Spain and San Fernando, especially during rush hour.
  • In spite of Trini mauvais langue in some quarters, the boats do not break down all the time.
  • Nobody gets stranded in the Gulf of Paria.
  • The ride isn't rough and you're not going to be throwing up all over yourself.
  • The trip usually takes less than the scheduled hour. Some of the captains have been able to cut as much as 15 minutes off the trip on occasion.
  • The service makes a difference in the lives of as many as 140 persons per trip in terms of time, energy and frustration, with a 400-seater still to come into service.
  • It's not a waste of tax payers' money.

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