Water taxi plying waters of Inner Harbour

Victoria Harbour Ferry’s Barry Hobbis behind the wheel of a new H2O Taxi.

Victoria Harbour Ferry’s Barry Hobbis behind the wheel of a new H2O Taxi.

Hailing a taxi is a new waterside activity in Victoria.

The new H2O Taxi service was launched by Victoria Harbour Ferry in the Inner Harbour Thursday.

“It’s a true taxi service. You can stand on a dock and wave down the taxi just like you would in Manhattan,” said Barry Hobbis, the company’s vice-president of operations.

Two telltale yellow-checkered taxis are now making the rounds at 17 ferry stops, from the Inner Harbour to West Bay in Esquimalt to Tillicum Bridge in Saanich, until the season ends in mid-October.

The service is different from the 14 little green tourist-laden Harbour Ferry tour and charter boats, which some commuters have been using to get from one stop to the next.

But the ferries are often full during July and August, and customers have to wait for the next boat, Hobbis explained.

Now, they can call ahead like they would a road taxi to schedule a pickup at one of the designated docks, 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. The enterprise is being billed as an environmentally friendly service that offers a shortcut for commuters.

“We do get commuters coming from West Bay (in Esquimalt), Songhees and Dockside,” said Hobbis. “They’re going to have an alternative form of transportation.”

In times of high demand, two of the green harbour ferries can be quickly outfitted with taxi signs and deployed.

There is potential, depending on demand, to add another taxi to the fleet next year, said Hobbis, adding that the schedule could also be extended to include early morning runs, for example. Hobbis also has his eye on establishing a new stop near Ogden Point to serve cruise ship visitors.

“If we develop this as a meaningful, viable service, we’re like to keep it available year-round,” Hobbis said.

H2O Taxis are available by calling 250-881-8294.

Fares are $5 per adult for a one-way trip within the Inner Harbour, or $10 for longer trips and $3 per child one way.Annual passes $100 plus tax for unlimited taxi rides.

emccracken@vicnews.com