Around Town | Seoul Water Taxi
If this is your typical morning in Seoul, then I can tell you there is another way out. Read on.
Just last week, while staring out the window of my stationary taxi on the eastbound Gangbyeon Parking Lot (“highway” only in name), I spotted a pair of white boats whizzing by the bridges of the Hangang River. They were moving urgently off to some important destination, and in my imagination, its passengers were a jet-set couple in tuxedo and gown sipping champagne on their way to the opening of an art show while mocking the moribund and wheelbound. But wait! It turns out those waterborne limos are actually water taxis and are part of a growing fleet in Seoul’s newest public transporation! Short of helicopters appearing on the horizon this is nothing short of a miracle.
Close to approaching their one year anniversary the Pleasant Seoul Taxi Service has been operating out of several piers along the Hangang River as an alternative to the mass transportation system. Here’s a quick rundown of their three services:
Express Shuttle: This costs a lowly W5,000 and operates in the morning from 7~8:30am and in the evening from 6:30~8pm. Shuttling bewtwen Yeouinaru and Ttukkseom in about 20 minutes (including boarding and debarkation), expect nothing less than an unusual feeling on your first trip. That feeling is called forward motion and it’s consistent with the steady application of thrust by the boat captains. Seldom seen in morning traffic, I breathed a welcome sigh of relief with my six other fellow passengers. Riding on the boat as it chopped past the Seoul scenery made me feel as though I had just ascended into an elite country club of commuting. This is the Gulfstream jet for the commuting class!
Tour and Direct make up the two remaining services. Both services are priced at the same rate and are customizeable. I think the difference between the two services are the sense of urgency and the number of stops. The tour package appeals to couples, friends, and tourists who I think may choose this as a leisure multiple stop stroll along the river’s many waypoints. The direct service looks more like a fast single destination “fast boat for hire” which could be perfect for the executive who has the funds and little time to spare. Unlike the economical express shuttle, these two services can cost up to W60,000 (Nanji<–>Ttukseom), but also have a wide array of boarding locations. (see the route map below)
Overall, I think the service’s selling points are attractive: a fast traffic-free ride on the river, a scenic route through the city’s geographical lifeline, and fresh air! There are several things to consider, however, but I don’t think they are dealbreakers. From what I understand, boats do not depart until full and boarding/debarkation points are not very close to subway stops. This is being remedied through further expansion of boarding points, including from “bridge elevators,” according to the Korea Times, and advance telephone and internet reservations for peak times.
I have already started finding any excuse to ditch my crowded subterranean subway route and I am most definitely avoiding the wheeled route whenever possible. It makes me wonder how simple a solution the water taxi has become. It takes advantage of the age old axiom that the fastest way between two points is a straight line. And it’s a pleasant way to see that proven each morning.
I’ve added some resources to check out if you think the water taxi might be for you:
Route Map with boarding stations:
Articles covering the water taxi in the Korea Times:
1) Launch of Seoul water taxi service (October 8, 2007)
2) Recent news (September 12, 2008)
–Travelistic wants LMB to build a canal from the Hangang to her office front door