SSA closes out business for 2009
Steamship Authority (SSA) members, in their last business meeting of the year on Tuesday in Woods Hole, moved briskly to extend the discounted excursion time period, to renew the Tisbury Park and Ride agreement, and to agree to place bus shelters at the Vineyard Haven terminal.
For the most part, the boatline weathered the economic storm of 2008. A drop in the cost of fuel to operate SSA vessels offset a drop in ridership and vehicle traffic.
In an update on capital projects, SSA director of engineering Carl Walker said work continues on the reconstruction of the Oak Bluffs terminal project. The SSA lost some time when cracks developed in the existing foundation of the old terminal building, demolished to make way for a new building.
Mr. Walker said rebuilding the foundation caused a five-week delay. He said the SSA would meet this week with all the project contractors to find a way to close the gap and stay on schedule for the April 30, 2010, terminal opening deadline.
The members agreed to renew the contract with Tisbury and the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) under which the boatline reimburses the VTA for the cost of providing shuttle service between the Park and Ride lot and the Vineyard Haven terminal. In 2008, the SSA paid the VTA $70,137 for that service.
The VTA said that a total of 111,032 passengers used the Park and Ride shuttle service in 2008, an increase of 9.4 percent over the previous year's total of 101,520.
For the 10 months ending on Oct. 31, a total of 88,232 passengers used the shuttle compared to 96,065 for the same ten-month period in 2008.
The SSA also agreed to allow Tisbury to install two new bus shelters on SSA property at the Vineyard Haven terminal on the north side of the traffic circle where buses now pick up passengers. The town will be responsible for maintaining the shelters.
The members agreed to sign off on a new contract with the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School District to provide school-related approved transportation at a cost of $55,000 during the school's fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2010, a fifty percent discount. The current agreement cost $60,000.
Management said during the most recent fiscal year the boatline provided transportation in the amount of $111,532, a 4.9 percent drop over the previous year's activity.
Management noted that the school has parked vehicles on the mainland for school travel and is no longer a member of the South Coast Conference.
With December drawing to a close, management presented year-to-date numbers for the period from January to October. Total operating revenues decreased by $4,229,496, or 5.5 percent versus the amount projected in the 2009 operating budget, management said.
Versus budget projections, passenger revenues for the year were down 2.3 percent; automobile revenues down 0.4 percent; and freight revenue down 14.8 percent.
That was offset by a $7,726,449 drop (11.6 percent) in operating expenses. Vessel fuel expense of $4,577,000 was $3,770,000 below budget estimates, management said.
The 2009 budget had been built around the expectation that fuel would cost the authority $3.472 per gallon. The average actual cost for vessel fuel in 2009 was $1.888.
In other business the members approved a request to extend the auto excursion time period from 28 to 31 days.
Nantucket member Flint Ranney noted that it had been five years since the board voted to name Wayne Lamson general manager. "It was one of the best decisions this board has ever made," Mr. Ranney said to the approval of his fellow board members.