Edgartown asks for fast ferry trip for Christmas
Edgartown's Santa may get a fast sleigh this holiday season. The Edgartown Board of Trade wants the Steamship Authority (SSA) members to consider providing special high-speed ferry service from Woods Hole to Memorial Wharf in December, on the occasion of the town's 25th Christmas in Edgartown celebration.
The trade group's request came in the form of a letter sent to Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member. The members discussed the request Tuesday morning during their June meeting in the Oak Bluffs Library meeting room.
The letter, signed by Margaret White, board of trade co-president, asked the SSA to consider using the Flying Cloud, which is to be replaced on the Nantucket route and sold, to provide round-trip service between Woods Hole and Edgartown on the weekend of Dec. 8, 9 and 10.
The Steamship Authority met for its June business meeting in the Oak Bluffs Library Tuesday. (From left to right) Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, Robert O'Brien, Barnstable, Flint Ranney, Nantucket, Robert Marshall, Falmouth, and Marc Hanover, Martha's Vineyard. Present but not shown, David Oliveira of New Bedford. Photo by Ben Scott
"We believe that this service would be a significant opportunity for both the town of Edgartown and the Steamship Authority, at an otherwise quiet time of the year," wrote Ms. White. "It has been 72 years since the last Steamship Authority vessel provided service to Edgartown."
Ms. White asked the board to provide an answer by Aug. 31, to allow time to properly promote the event and review the proposed service with selectmen and the harbormaster. One issue could be timing. The SSA is planning to sell the Flying Cloud once the Iyanough, now under construction, begins service on the Nantucket route this fall.
The members referred the board of trade request to management. It is to be discussed when the board meets next month in Hyannis.
The SSA members moved briskly through an agenda that included a business report, an update on new capital projects including the Island Home ferry, proposed 2007 winter and spring ferry schedules and the sale of the Flying Cloud.
In response to a question from The Times during the public portion of the meeting, Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, said that union-sponsored legislation that would force the boatline to submit to binding arbitration in contract negotiations remains locked up in a Senate committee. He said he had nothing new to report.
The Oak Bluffs venue was selected in keeping with the Authority's seasonal tradition of rotating monthly meetings in each of the port communities.
The meeting began with a report by Mr. Lamson on boatline traffic for the month of April. Passenger counts were up 2.9 percent, or 3,925 travelers, on the Vineyard route compared to 2005, while automobile traffic dipped 6.3 percent.
Mr. Lamson said the SSA continues to save money by eliminating unneeded trips and conserving fuel through careful monitoring of vessel engine speed. He said the boatline is in good shape as it emerged from the losing winter months and headed into the profitable summer season, when passenger and vehicle traffic increases across the board.
Carl Walker, director of engineering, provided an update on several capital projects. He said the Island Home, due to replace the Islander by the end of the year, is on schedule for a July 21 launch.
Although the vessel will be afloat, he said, much work will remain to be done on the interior components. "Outfitting is a huge job," he said.
Mr. Walker said the new Woods Hole ramp will allow unloading and loading at the same time. The wider ramps and platforms would also make it possible for two people to walk side-by-side, speeding up the process.
The board also reviewed proposed 2007 operating schedules under which one weekday and all weekend freight trips would be eliminated with the option of adding a boat when needed. The winter schedule would also run 12 additional days.
Mr. Lamson said the changes would allow more flexibility and economy based on need. "What we are looking to accomplish is economical service," said Robert Marshall of Falmouth, SSA board chairman.
Mr. Hanover, referencing calls he had received from the parents of Vineyard students who attend Falmouth Academy, asked that management consider their travel schedules in the schedule. Mr. Lamson said the SSA holds the Friday 2:30 pm boat until the Falmouth Academy bus arrives at the terminal. The rest of the days are not an issue, he said, because many students participate in after-school activities.
With no discussion, the board approved a new five-year lease with the town of Oak Bluffs for the staging area located on Sea View Avenue adjacent to the SSA terminal. The SSA will pay the town $7,010 in the first year with a provision for annual adjustments based on increases in operating days and adult passenger fares.
Prior to the vote, Mr. Marshall asked Duncan Ross, chairman of the Oak Bluffs selectmen, "Are you happy with this?"
"Absolutely," said Mr. Ross.
Moving to the sale of the Flying Cloud, Mr. Lamson said the boatline is in the process of determining a price. The board then agreed to leave it to management to determine how best to proceed in order to maximize the sale price while meeting the requirements facing a public agency sale of surplus property.
"We made a good boat out of it and we should get paid for it," said Mr. Marshall, referencing the vessel's new engines and many repairs.
The board also approved the purchase of 20 new hand-held mobile phone/computers and 15 touch-screen cash registers. Mr. Lamson said the new equipment is part of an effort to speed the ticketing and check-in process. Flint Ranney, Nantucket member, asked if management would look into a system that would allow customers to purchase and print out their own tickets online. Mr. Lamson said he would.
Mr. Ranney also raised the subject of marketing products with an SSA logo, a revenue-producing notion that has surfaced several times in the past and then slipped out of sight. Mr. Ranney began the discussion with a motion for a request for proposals for marketing gift shop items. Mr. Marshall expressed support for the idea but said it must be done in a professional way. Quoting former urban planner and Vineyard resident Edward Logue, SSA counsel Steve Sayers suggested that the board needed a plan to make a plan.
The board agreed to let management come up with a recommendation on how best to proceed.
During public comment period, Jannette Bigelow, a resident of Woodside Village in Oak Bluffs, rose from her wheel chair and described several difficulties she had encountered over the past several years traveling on SSA vessels.
"Please imagine I am your 80-year-old mother," she told the members by way of introduction. In one instance she said she was unable to exit her car. Another time no one came to assist her exiting a vessel.
Ms. Bigelow had several recommendations for the SSA members that she said would help other disabled passengers. She suggested the boatline schedule identify vessels with elevators and purchase a handful of red pennants that could be attached to vehicles carrying disabled passengers, so the loaders would know which vehicles needed special attention.
"How simple is that?" asked Ms. Bigelow. "How cheap is that?"
Mr. Hanover said that in general when port agents are made aware of a problem, they do everything they can to assist disabled passengers. He said the issue appeared to be communication.
The members agreed that while the SSA has policies in place to provide disabled passengers with preferential treatment, it was time to revisit those policies and make sure all employees are aware of them.