First Ever JU Water Taxi Finds Success on the St. Johns

Free water taxi to run again April 11,12, and 13, transporting students, faculty and staff to and from Downtown Jax for One Spark

Students+ride+the+first+ever+JU+Water+Taxi+to+the+Jacksonville+Landing+April+2+for+the+monthly+Downtown+Art+Walk+

Christina Kelso

Students ride the first ever JU Water Taxi to the Jacksonville Landing April 2 for the monthly Downtown Art Walk

Almost simultaneously, a boatful of Jacksonville University students, faculty and staff jumped. Dressed in springtime clothes and sunglasses, they peered over the starboard side of the first ever JU Water Taxi and into the St. Johns River below.

The first dolphin sighting of the trip was announced and a wave of excitement took over the boat as taxi-goers scoured the water in search of dorsal fins and bottle noses. They got lucky.  A pod of university mascots in action popped periodically out of the water, seeming to travel alongside the taxi on its 30 minute drift toward the Downtown Jacksonville cityscape.

On Wednesday April 2, the first ever JU Water Taxi set off from the Gentry Floating Docks, located behind the Negaard Rowing Center, and carried students into the bustling Jacksonville Landing for the Downtown Art Walk.

This trip served as the taxi’s test run to gauge student response, which was swift. Within 20 minutes of opening the registration link for the taxi the week prior, 70 students signed up. By the time it departed JU, every seat was full.

“It’s very exciting, especially if you’re into nature,” said Lauren White, sophomore kinesiology major. “You see the dolphins and it’s a relaxing kind of atmosphere. We should keep it.”

The Water Taxi offers an opportunity for students to explore the downtown scene, while bypassing the hassles of finding transportation, covering gas costs, and navigating through and finding parking on downtown streets.

Originally from South Carolina, since coming to JU, White has been making efforts to get off campus and into the city more frequently, and appreciated the opportunity the Water Taxi provided.

“I feel like if you get more transportation for students to actually explore Jacksonville, it will help students to see what’s here and to enjoy Jacksonville rather than sit in their dorms all day,” she said.

Art Walk is one of Downtown’s largest free events, held the first Wednesday of every month. April Art walk included several local visual artists and bands, a silent disco, a recycled fashion show and food trucks galore.

For students without cars for transportation, such as sophomore accounting major Benedito Agostinho, the taxi offers a new convenience and tool for community exploration.

Attending JU from Miami, Agostinho took the taxi with friends to explore the downtown art scene. This was his second visit to the city center.

“It’s really hard to leave school when you don’t drive,” Agostinho said. “I think it’s a good thing to bring the taxi to school to help people have more fun, to be able to move around Jacksonville and get to know the city.”

Katherine Thomas and Luka Vukadinovic, presidential fellows and 2013 JU alumni, and Donald Horner, chief government and community affairs officer of the Davis Leadership Center, came up with the concept for the water taxi and, beginning in November, spearheaded efforts to develop the idea into a reality.

“We learned from some meetings the President was having in Open Office Hours that students really wanted to experience things outside in the community,” Thomas said. “And, we have such a natural resource here with the St. Johns River, we found it to be the perfect fit to be able to take a water taxi into Downtown Jacksonville where a lot of programs and events are going on.”

The Free JU Water Taxi will run again April 11, 12 and 13, transporting students, faculty and staff to and from downtown for the One Spark festival.

Friday, the taxi will depart the JU Gentry Docks, located adjacent to the Marine Science building, every hour on the hour from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. Return trips to campus will depart the Jacksonville Landing every hour on the half-hour from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, the taxi will leave JU every hour on the hour from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and leave the Jacksonville Landing every hour on the half hour from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m..