Boat? Car?...Tour Bus!

Proposal for Hydra-terra vehicle tours of the Square awaits approval

Tourists will be able to roll through Harvard Square in style this summer if plans go through for double-decker bus and amphibious vehicle tours.

While the double-decker bus tours have already won approval from the city, opposition from community activists has so far clipped the wings of the amphibious vehicle plans.

Erroll Tyler wants to conduct tours with two Hydra-terra vehicles, which are similar to the duck boats used in Boston and other cities.

His vehicles will travel along Massachusetts Ave., through Harvard Square, down John F. Kennedy St., and then onto Western Ave, before passing through Central Square, and finally inserting into the water at the Museum of Science.

Cambridge advocates worry about the effect on their neighborhood,


“Duck boats look like tanks. The effect is very jarring,” said Jinny Nathans, president of the Harvard Square Defense Fund, which is opposing the proposal.

But Tyler insisted that the Hydra-terras were not duck boats.

“Duck boats are military vehicles,” Tyler said, referring to the DUKW landing craft leftover from World War II. “These are amphibious vehicles . . .  that are licensed as buses. They do not make any more noise than other vehicles on the road... These [vehicles] are state of the art.”

The Square Defense Fund distributed flyers along the route in an attempt to prevent Tyler’s new proposal from making a splash.

According to Nathans, at least 100 residents complained to the Cambridge License Commission, which heard Tyler’s request on Jan. 29.

Executive Director of the Licence Commission Richard V. Scali said that Tyler asked that the commission to hold offf on voting on the request so that Tyler could amend the route and get rights to use the Charles River.

“He’s supposed to come back in a month,” Scali said.

Cambridge Office of Tourism Executive Director Robyn M. Thieringer said that she was worried Tyler had not been forthcoming enough with his plan.

“We have genuine concerns. I’m not strongly against [the proposal] but until I hear more [I can’t support it]. He has to get answers to some questions,” she said.

Nathans emphasized that the concern with the amphibious vehicles was not just a matter of the route.

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