Combatting Boat Waves in Venice: Police Commander Agostini, “Limit the hours for rowed boats in Canal Grande”

Local police Commander Marco Agostini suggests limiting rowed boats to ease traffic, raising a protest in commission against restrictions on residents.

By Eugenio Pendolini

[Ed. Note: I can certainly personally attest to the size of the waves in Rio Novo, Canal Grande and the Giudecca canal from what I saw recently. Watching people get in gondolas can be sad – the water is so choppy and there is so much traffic. On Giudecca we had to sit by the restaurant door because of the waves breaking up onto the fondamenta.

But I want to point out another serious real-life effect of the water traffic situation not mentioned below. A few weeks ago my friend, who does business all around Venice and gets to every job in his boat, told me that there are now parts of the city he cannot do business in because of the traffic and restrictions. So this is hurting local businesses too.]

20 September 2022

The endless return of boat waves to the city debate took a new step in commission yesterday. This time, however, a new possible solution, precisely that which concerns traditional boats, came from the local police commander, Marco Agostini, and it raised more than a little controversy.

Agostini proposed clearing the Canal Grande of all the boats that get in the way of the city’s rush of motorized traffic until a certain hour, to leave space for public transportation, supply boats and garbage collection. At the cost of also expelling rowed boats from their home, and that is the lagoon and the Canal Grande.

This is Agostini’s reasoning: “For practical reasons garbage collection takes place in Venice between 7 and 11 in the morning, the same hours as merchandise transport and delivery. The gondoliers operate from 8 in the morning until midnight, overlapping with other categories of transportation. It would be worth considering if would not be possible to distinguish the routes in the most congested areas. It would be a sacrifice to remove the gondolas from the Rialto bridge from 9 until 11, but this would simplify transportation of goods”.

Hence the parallel with pleasure boats (for which there are already restrictions in force for the Canal Grande) and with rowed boats. “I would not find it scandalous if the Canal Grande was closed to rowed boats, they would be able to pass through from 12 on. Not because they cause boat waves, but together with the gondoliers, taxis and transports they lead to congestion that generates maneuvers that generate boat waves”.

His line of reasoning then concludes with the need to increase the number of licenses for taxis, in order to increase the offering and to avoid runs back and forth through the canals, and with the creation of a single number for client requests. A summary then was given to the commission of controls and fines (90 up to today, there were 42 in 2021 and 444 in 2019, an exponential increase in lack of insurance). “However, the fines are barely effective”, adds Agostini, “we propose reintroducing the regulations that were in force during the period under the commissioner, which provided for administrative detention of the vehicle for seven days in the event of a dispute”.

Meanwhile, however, the complaints multiply and the problem – which affects the safety of navigation but also the maintenance of the banks – is not being resolved. It risks becoming one of the factors that lead families to abandon Venice. “In addition to the pollution is the problem of the horns”, says Marco Gasparinetti (Terre e Acqua). “I’m in favor of increasing taxi licenses on the condition that they are small and electric vehicles. There are already restrictions in Canal Grande, and we should not involve rowed boats”. Cecilia Tonon (Venezia è Tua) also talks about a “dramatic” situation: “We are getting reports of repeated horns in rio Novo at 4 AM. We cannot live like this. Merchandise transportation should be regulated with an interchange that can coordinate hours and vessels”.

For Tonon another critical point regards the gondole da parata: “They have been discovered by the tourists, but they are a service for the citizens. They should be reserved for residents”.

Giovanni Giusto (Lega) is also in favor of vehicle detention in case of violations. Regarding the limits on rowed boats he said: “The only ones who should be exempted from restrictions are Venetians; we should not punish those who are not part of the problem”. Finally, there is the problem of small boats, often at traveling at high speed and blasting music in the middle of the night. “We should address the problem in all its aspects”, proposed Giovanni Andrea Martini (Tutta la Città Insieme), “to understand how to respond appropriately to a phenomenon that has exploded in the post-pandemic”.

Source: La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre

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