© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.

The Boston Globe
June 21, 2005

Shuttle to help show off the harbor
$10 will buy all-day water taxi rides between attractions

By Robert Gavin, Globe Staff

Save the Harbor/Save the Bay helped get Boston Harbor cleaned up. Now, the nonprofit group is launching a weekend water shuttle to ferry people from the USS Constitution in Charlestown to the World Trade Center in South Boston -- with a half-dozen stops near popular attractions in between.

The all-day adult fare: $10.

The shuttle, beginning Friday and operated by City Water Taxi, is emblematic of a new phase in Boston Harbor's reclamation. After nearly two decades of work and billions of dollars spent, the harbor is as clean as it has been in generations, and now the focus should be on transforming the waterfront into a lively center of tourism, commerce, and community life, according to a study released today.

The water shuttle is just one step. The plan is to connect attractions which, by land, can seem distant and hard to get to, and to create a sense of the waterfront as a single destination, according to the study by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, in partnership with the city and the Boston Foundation.

More broadly, the study calls on government to follow through on investments in parks, trails, and transportation that improve access to waterfront.

In addition, the study says businesses, nonprofits, and other waterfront interests should work with the city to promote the district, including organizing festivals that not only attract people but enhance the region's vitality.

''After investing billions," said Bruce Berman, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay spokesman, ''we think that for millions we can make the harbor work for people."

The study represents the first of what will be regular reports on the harbor, tracking the progress in improving environmental conditions; enhancing waterfront access; balancing commercial, residential, and recreational uses; and encouraging economic development, Berman said. The studies will be similar to the Boston Foundation's biannual ''Indicators" reports, which measure the broader economic and social health of Greater Boston.

The multibillion-dollar harbor cleanup, along with the Central Artery project, has already sparked new activity and investment, according to the report. The artery project, commonly known as the Big Dig, demolished the elevated portion of Interstate 93 through downtown, removing a major barrier to the waterfront.

More than $8 billion in private development is planned or proposed along the waterfront, while employment there grew 29 percent between 1994 and 2001, compared to 11 percent in Boston, according to the study.

The number of people living near the waterfront increased 12 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared to about 3 percent population growth in the city.

Yet the waterfront suffers from perceptions that the Big Dig is still making it hard to get to the shoreline, and that traffic is bad and parking scarce and inaccessible, according to a survey of Boston-area residents included in the study.

The number of visitors to the Boston Harbor Islands fell by nearly 50 percent between 2001 and 2004, while the USS Constitution welcomed 35 percent fewer visitors.

Such results show that more needs to be done to promote the waterfront, the study said. For example, the study found about 10,000 parking spots are within a five-minute walk of the central waterfront, costing $10 or less for eight hours.

Overcoming negative perceptions will be critical to creating the sort of waterfront that has made cities like San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C., destinations not only for tourists, but lures for business investment and for the young, educated workers considered critical for economic growth.

''We believe one of the key determinants in Boston's future is how the harbor development plays out," said Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation.

The harbor, of course, has been critical to the region's economy since Colonial days, and political, business, and community leaders say it's certain to remain so in the 21st century. In an era when amenities, image, and buzz play key roles in attracting and retaining businesses, a first-class waterfront with a range of activities can set Boston apart, they said.

Dan Kenary, president of Harpoon Brewery, near the waterfront on Northern Avenue, said a cleaner harbor has already helped his business. Visitors joke less about whether the water used by the brewery comes from what was once a famously dirty harbor.

More seriously, Kenary said, the cleaner harbor has ''elevated the brand" of Boston, which is particularly important for consumer-products makers like Harpoon. ''The more quality that can be associated with your location, your neighborhood, the better for your product," he said.

Harpoon has boosted its Boston workforce to about 65 from about 50 a few years ago; its revenue has grown about 10 percent a year for five years, Kenary said.

''The harbor is very important to the future of our city," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. ''It's an unbelievable resource and we still don't realize its potential."

Robert Gavin can be reached at rgavin@globe.com.
© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.

Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.