SSA hikes truck, parking rates to fill budget hole

Island Home
File photo by Susan Safford

The Steamship Authority (SSA) members have approved a 2014 operating budget that includes rate increases for trucks and parking permit holders. Meeting Tuesday in Vineyard Haven, the members heard updates on several capital projects at a sparsely attended regular monthly gathering.

The members accepted management’s proposed 2014 operating budget, according to a management-generated meeting report. Total operating expenses in 2014 are expected to be around $85,332,000, which represents a $519,000 increase (or 0.6 percent) compared to the most recent estimate for 2013, based on seven months actual expenses and five months budgeted expenses.

One of the most significant changes in the SSA’s projected costs next year, treasurer Robert Davis said, are vessel fuel costs, which remain one of the most volatile expenses to project. The SSA estimates that fuel costs will be around $9,987,000 in 2014, or a 4.7 percent increase over the estimate for 2013, based on the assumption that the price of crude oil will range between $93 and $103 per barrel.

Vessel drydock expenses are expected to increase by $798,000, or 56.1 percent. Haul-outs are scheduled for the Martha’s Vineyard, the Governor, the Sankaty, the Eagle and the Iyanough in 2014. Pension, health and welfare costs are also expected to increase by $654,000, or 5.4 percent, next year.

The board approved SSA management’s proposed rate adjustments for 2014, to raise an additional $1,000,000 of revenues to meet the projected cost of service and provide sufficient cash to service the SSA’s special purpose funds.

Based on this year’s rates, revenues from the Nantucket route are already projected to cover the cost of service on that route, according to the management report.

“Therefore, all of the rate increases will be implemented on the Martha’s Vineyard routes so that the projected revenues from that route (57.1 percent of our total revenues) will similarly cover that route’s cost of service (57.2 percent of our total operating expenses),” management said.

As a result, fares for trucks greater than 20 feet in length will increase by approximately 5.25 percent year-round, the first increase in these truck fares since 2007, the SSA said.

The daily fee parking rates in Woods Hole and Falmouth will increase to $10 during the off-season and to $13 during the summer season, the first increases in these parking rates since 2008, the SSA said; and the rates for parking permits at the Woods Hole and Falmouth off-site lots will increase by $25.

The board also approved management’s request to establish additional fares for both routes to cover some items that were not currently addressed, namely, three-wheeled motorcycles and tandem-style bicycles.

Although SSA management did not propose any rate increases for the Nantucket route, General manager Wayne Lamson noted that other actions have been taken in the past few years to increase revenues on that route.

Traffic stats show drop

Management also provided traffic statistics for the first nine months of 2013, through September 30.

The SSA carried 2,298,255 passengers between the mainland and the islands, a 0.4 percent increase from the number of passengers it carried during the same period in 2012, according to the management report. Of those passengers 1,823,286 were carried between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard (a 0.4 percent decrease from the same period last year).

The SSA carried 353,458 automobiles between the mainland and the islands, a 0.7 percent decrease from the number of automobiles it carried during the same period in 2012. Of those automobiles 302,558 were carried between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard (a 0.4% decrease from the same period last year).

The SSA carried 123,688 trucks between the mainland and the islands, a 4.7 percent increase from the number of trucks it carried during the same period in 2012. Of those trucks 90,684 were carried between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard (a 4.7 percent increase from the same period last year).

In other business, Mr. Lamson reported that Bertaux and Iwerks Architects have prepared concept drawings showing three different potential possibilities for the reconstruction of the Woods Hole terminal that include the possible move of the terminal building and drop-off and pick-up area to a deck over the terminal’s current parking and staging area. More fully developed designs will be presented to the board at their meeting on November 12.

Mr. Lamson also reported that three design firms have been pre-qualified to receive the SSA’s request for proposals to provide design and engineering services for its new vehicle/passenger ferry. The members will be asked to award the design contract at their December 17 meeting. The current schedule calls for the new vessel to be delivered before the beginning of the 2016 summer schedule.