The name, vaporetto, could be translated as "little steamer", and refers to similarly purposed ships in the past that were run by steam. The natives call the vaporetto batèlo or vaporino. The waterbus line is operated by Azienda del Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano (Actv), the Venetian public transport system. The vaporetto is necessary in Venice as deep canals prohibit building underground railways, and there is no space for overground trains, leaving the canals as the only viable rapid transport system. Most vaporetti have disability access.
ACTV sells 12-, 24-, 36-, 48- and 72-hour passes as well as single-journey tickets and 7-day passes. The private express company Alilaguna also operates a limited water bus service, to the airport for example, although its boats (including a new one that is a hybrid electric/diesel) are not technically considered to be vaporetti.
The first vaporetto appeared in 1881, in competition with gondoliers and hotel boatmen. The subsequent debate that the first few vaporettos caused helped shaped their role as "Venitian buses", as well as helping the gondoliers, as the only ones with access into the smaller waterways, continue into the present day.
- Davis, Robert C, and Garry R Marvin. Venice, the Tourist Maze: a Cultural Critique of the World's Most Touristed City. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. pp. 140-42.