The company that operates the water taxis on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville has notified the city it will suspend service on June 6. City officials say they are looking for a new service provider, but "we do expect to have a lapse in water taxi service."
Channel 4 learned that HarborCare notified the city on Friday it will end the service due to issues caused by the reconstruction of the Southbank Riverwalk and the lack of an extension to its contract with the city that ends at the end of July.
"We still do not have a contract to operate and the construction project that is seriously hampering our income potential, we just can’t continue to operate at a loss amidst all of this uncertainty," wrote Rosie Trout, chief transportation officer of Jacksonville Water Taxi
City officials say they were working on installing a temporary floating dock east of the Main Street Bridge so water taxi service to and from the Southbank could continue during Riverwalk construction. The city also said that it rejected all bids received to a request-for-proposal earlier this year because none of the bidders met the minimum requirements of the contract.
HarborCare said the city contract requires six boats with a total of 350 seats and a minimum of 40 seats per boat. The company said it met the first two criteria, but not the third as three of its six boats have less than 40 seats.
"Since our current contract has expired, our extension was not granted and our long-term bid was rejected we have no other options," said Mike McDaniel of HarborCare.
Tera Meeks, who heads waterfront management for Jacksonville's Park and Recreation Department, said they were modifying the RFP to "make the opportunity more friendly to start-up businesses and small businesses and will generate additional interest in the opportunity."
Meeks wrote in an email to several city councilmen on Tuesday that the department "understands and appreciates the water-taxi’s importance to downtown and we are committed to providing diverse quality recreation opportunities in the downtown area."