SSA board makes quick start in New Year
Meeting for the first time in 2007, the Steamship Authority (SSA) members, led by a New Bedford member for the first time in more than 50 years, made quick work of a light agenda Tuesday in Woods Hole.
The board completed its work in a little more than one hour. In that time, the members approved a policy that will immediately remove many of the restrictions that passengers have found nettlesome when using a 10-ride passenger ticket books.
Prior to Tuesday the discounted tickets could only be used by the original purchaser and were not transferable, which meant that each member of a group or family needed a separate book. The new policy allows multiple tickets from the same book to be used by different passengers on the same trip.
Sea trials for the ferry Island Home, shown here at the VT Halter Marine dock in Pascagoula, Mississippi, will start Firday. Photo courtesy of SSA
The ticket books provide an added discount because the 50-cent embarkation fee does not apply to the price of the ticket.
The board also approved a slight increase in the cost of ticket books from $52 to $55 for the Vineyard route and from $116 to $120 on the Nantucket route for passengers taking a conventional ferry and from $230 to $240 for high-speed travel.
Although the transfer of the chairman's gavel to New Bedford member David Oliveira was accompanied with no fanfare, it was an historic moment in the history of the boatline. New Bedford gained a place on the boatline board after more than 50 years, following a bitter political struggle that ended in changes to the authority's enabling legislation.
Mr. Oliveira began the meeting with kind words of remembrance and a moment of silence for former SSA chief executive Fred Raskin, who died on Dec. 15. Mr. Oliveira said Mr. Raskin helped to broker a compromise for high-speed passenger service between New Bedford and the Vineyard. When the easiest thing would have been to do nothing, Mr. Raskin "boldly moved forward and got it done," said Mr. Oliveira.
Director of engineering Carl Walker provided an update on the Island Home. He said a noise interference problem between the engine controls and bowthruster drives has been fixed, and postponed sea trials were expected to take place Friday.
Nantucket SSA member Flint Ranney shares a light moment with New Bedford SSA member and new board chairman David Oliveira. Photo by Nelson Sigelman
Mr. Walker said the departure date from the Gulf builder's yard is between Jan. 20 and 25. "My guess is that we will see the boat up here the first week of February," he said.
During a discussion of the draft fall operating schedules, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said that the Island Home's larger capacity would enable the boatline to increase the number of preferred spaces available to Islanders.
Vineyard SSA member Marc Hanover asked for a review of preferred space use to improve service for Vineyard travelers.
Mr. Lamson said management would be studying ways to reorganize those spaces so they are available when people want them. He said allocating preferred spaces requires balancing the needs of people who want to make plans in advance with those people who have last-minute needs, such as a medical appointment.
In one of several votes, the board approved a $486,283 contract with McGann Associates of Boston to create an electronic parking access and control system. The new system is intended to allow customers to pay for parking and exit SSA lots faster by utilizing a range of electronic devices. It is also expected to save approximately $100,000 in staffing costs, according to one estimate provided Tuesday.
Year end one-way traffic statistics for the boatline showed a slight increase in 2006 passenger traffic compared with 2005 of .4 percent, or a gain of 10,730 passengers, 7,091 of whom traveled on the Vineyard route.
Auto traffic was down 1.3 percent overall, and by 1.4 percent, or by 5,378 one-way vehicle trips, on the Vineyard route.
Truck traffic, a category that includes pickups less than 20 feet in length, was up 8.4 percent overall. Vineyard truck traffic increased by 6.5 percent, or by 6,344 trips.