The Independence Mall area will get loading zones for two sightseeing tours, including one calling itself the Junk Food Tour, and add space for Ride the Ducks if City Council passes a bill that its Streets Committee approved Thursday.
The ducks loading zone, however, would still leave the company that operates the amphibious vehicles with significantly less space than it had last year, when it loaded passengers alongside the Independence Visitors Center on Sixth Street between Market and Arch Streets. Several years ago, federal Judge Timothy Savage raised concerns that a terrorist could use a duck boat to attack the nearby federal courthouse.
At a hearing on the subject last summer, some City Council members questioned whether those fears were legitimate. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. ridiculed them as "riduckulous." And on Thursday, when Council's Streets Committee heard testimony on the new loading zones and regulating bicycle lanes, Councilman Frank DiCicco joked that he was worried about "someone with a bike and saddlebags" attacking the courthouse.
But the city nonetheless decided to find a new spot for passengers to board the duck vehicles.
Last summer, Ride the Ducks suspended the tours after a barge hit a duck boat on the Delaware River, killing two Hungarian tourist passengers on July 7. Operations resumed in March with a more limited tour of the Delaware that aims to keep the ducks out of the way of larger vessels. Passengers now board on Fifth Street between Market and Arch Streets. The bill the Streets Committee approved would add a second loading zone on Sixth Street between Ranstead and Chestnut Streets.
But Chris Herschend, president of the company that operates Ride the Ducks, said that even with two loading zones, the company will have half the space it previously had. He said the company was talking to city officials and others about adding more loading zones.
The bill also would provide loading zones for two tours. A new tour, Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours, which will offer 90-minute tours in double-decker buses, would get a loading spot on Fifth Street adjacent to the Bourse building. The Junk Food Tour, which takes visitors to a variety of Philadelphia food outlets, would get a loading zone on the east side of Third Street, next to the old visitor's center.