Barge operator Go Rio Cruises on Monday launched a nonstop service called Commuter Express, a ride intended to take office workers from the Pearl to downtown in the morning, and back to the Pearl at the end of the day.

The company hopes to meet a potential transportation demand for downtown workers living in the Pearl area and in adjacent neighborhoods.

The boats depart the Pearl at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and drop off passengers at Mexican Manhattan and Casa Rio Mexican Restaurant. The return times are 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. from those same locations.

The pilot program, which ends Oct. 31, already has a handful of riders. Yesterday, a gentleman dressed for the office waited for the service just below Mexican Manhattan around 5:30 p.m. That morning, he had used the service and clocked his commute at 20 minutes.

"It was perfect. Kind of cool and early enough that it was in the shade the entire way," said the office worker, who asked not to be identified. He lives in Mahncke Park and parked at the Pearl before making his way down to the river.

This morning at the Pearl, barge captain Russty Lindholm said the trip's length depends on the speed of the boat. But he clocked times from Pearl to Mexican Manhattan at about 30 minutes, and to Casa Rio at about 40 minutes.

Go Rio Cruises general manager Lee Talamantez said the lock and dam near Brooklyn Avenue eats up 3-5 minutes. When asked about some of the rather lengthy commute, especially for workers who live so close to downtown, Talamantez said river commuters would not have to endure the stresses of traffic or pay high prices for parking. Instead, they can zen quality of the river allows them to focus in on their day.

The Commuter Express monthly passes cost $25 a month (available at GoRioCruises.com and Go Rio is running a special that gifts two "narrated cruise" tickets worth $12 each to the first 100 people who purchase commuter passes.

Talamantez said the company has researched adding WiFi to the boats. "It's kind of challenging to get a good consistent service (on the river)," he said. "The signal is not really working down there. All the buildings are above us, and it kind of impedes the WiFi."

Go Rio Cruises co-owner Hope Andrade, who visited with Lindholm this morning, said her company will soon begin to market the service to Pearl residents.

Featured photo: Russty Lindholm prepares to unmoor his Go Rio Cruises river barge at the Pearl Tuesday morning. Ben Olivo / San Antonio Heron

ben@saheron.com

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