Some suggestions for the SSA

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To the Editor:

The following is an open letter to Robert Davis, general manager of the Steamship Authority.

The Steamship Authority is the lifeline to the Islands, and also, too often, a frustrating customer experience. Here are five things you can do quickly that will enhance the customer experience, while you pursue the larger fixes needed to address this year’s more major shortcomings.

No. 5. Include the freight boats in your published schedules. Unless you memorize when the freight boats run, you’d have to find them by creating a dummy car reservation via the reservation site, and then look at what boats are listed. Fixing this would be especially helpful to visitors, who are the lifeblood of MV’s economy.

No. 4. Label the shuttle bus lanes in Woods Hole. Although there is one sign, when coming from the main slip, that indicates which lanes have buses that will go to which lot, it is easy to miss if: It is crowded, you are distracted, or you are coming from the other slip. Why not put the signs in the aisles between the buses, where everyone would see them, or on the back of the buses? Again, this fix would be most helpful to visitors, the lifeblood of MV’s economy.

No. 3. Identify the destination ports more clearly. The sign at the secondary slip is located at the front of the walk-on passenger line, where it is blocked from view by all the waiting passengers. Please put another one where it can be seen when approaching from the bus. During all the construction and the frequent substitution of boats for one another, it is not obvious which boat is headed where.

No. 2. Time the buses to depart the lots to make the ferries, not miss them by a minute. I cannot tell you how many times my fellow passengers and I are furious after sitting in a bus at Landers, begging the driver to please depart so we can make the next boat, only to be told s/he can’t leave unless dispatch authorizes. It is nauseating to see that the boat I could have made sailing out of the slip, while I ready myself either to wait 2½ hours for the next boat to Vineyard Haven or to drop money on a taxi from Oak Bluffs to V.H., which still gets you to V.H. 30 to 50 minutes later than you should have arrived.

No. 1. Get rid of the stupid new fare cards. I have a family of seven, so I have 7 cards. It is impossible to keep track of how many rides are on each. Was this a move to discourage the use of commuting tickets? Seems like a waste of plastic cards, time, and money. People I talk with get used to the other inconveniences, but everyone feels taken advantage of by this one.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Freedman

Newton and Chilmark

4 COMMENTS

  1. Well put John Freedman! I agree entirely! Especially about the new “lifeline” cards, what a pain they are, I too feel like they are taking advantage!

  2. I agree with you and really hope that the SSA figures out a better way to deal with the plastic cards. I don’t understand the logic of making each family member have their own. The initial investment, each time you need them reloaded, even WITH the new 5 trip minimum, is pricey. Perhaps the SSA really is trying to eliminate the cost saving for passengers. OK then they should just stop it but still allow people to buy multi packs of tickets so that you don’t have to go into the office each time you are on a boat to purchase tickets. Put the person who thought of this in a car with 4 children and two parents, drive a few hours, figure out that each of the 6 cards has different #s of trips on it because everyone isn’t always on the same trip and see how confusing it is for users. Then have the ticket taker stop you at the entry to the ferry to say that one of you needs to run back to the office and purchase a ticket – even though there are a total of eleven trips remaining on the cards that are handed over. It seems like a crazy amount of work. Those green books seemed a lot easier to deal with.

  3. Until the SSA hires someone who’s role is “Customer Experience” we will continue to be treated as sheeple by them.

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