Steamship Authority Considers Increasing Rates on All Fares

By JAMES KINSELLA
Gazette Senior Writer

Steamship Authority managers plan to recommend across-the-board rate increases of about five per cent for the coming year.

If approved by the Authority board of governors at their meeting next month on the Vineyard, it will mark the second year in a row where the cost of traveling on the boat line has gone up. Last year, the standard passenger fare on the Vineyard route rose nine per cent. The state-chartered boat line operates the only year-round passenger and vehicle ferry service between the mainland and the two Islands.

SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said this week that rising fuel and insurance costs are among the factors prompting boat line managers to propose higher fares. Contributing to the need for more revenue on the Vineyard route are anticipated higher costs related to the Island Home car and passenger ferry, scheduled to enter service late this year. Mr. Lamson estimates fuel and insurance costs for the Island Home will outpace those for the Islander, the ferry that has plied the route for the past 56 years.

Mr. Lamson will present a preliminary budget to SSA governors at their monthly meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Hyannis terminal. The board will vote on the final 2007 budget at its Oct. 26 meeting on the Vineyard.

In other developments, Mr. Lamson said the boat line's new $31.5 million ferry, the Island Home, likely will debut on the Woods Hole-Vineyard route slightly later than planned.

Mr. Lamson said VT Halter Marine, which is building the vessel in Mississippi, had planned to deliver the Island Home by Nov. 28. The Authority now anticipates the vessel will be delivered by the end of the year.

The boat line has placed the Island Home on its official schedule starting Jan. 3. If the new vessel still is not ready, Mr. Lamson said, the veteran ferry Islander will continue on the route.

As for fare increases, Falmouth governor and board chairman Robert Marshall called the prospect disappointing, but necessary. "It's very uncomplicated. We know pretty much within a per cent or two what it costs to run 12 months of the Authority. After the fact, we know what the revenue is. Expenses are up and revenue is off."

At present, the boat line on the Vineyard route charges a one-way passenger fare of $6; a one-way children's and senior citizen fare of $3; an off-season, round trip fare of $45 for ordinary cars and $65 for large cars; and a one-way summer passage of $62 for ordinary cars and $72 for large cars.

Most non-commuter passenger fares also are subject to a 50-cent embarkation fee. The measure effectively pushes the one-way adult fare on the Vineyard route to $6.50.

Last year, boat line governors approved a $4 million rate increase that took effect this year. Of that increase, $3.2 million was applied to the Vineyard route and $800,000 was applied to the Nantucket route. The move raised passenger and automobile fares on the Vineyard route from nine to 15 per cent.