SSA fares up for Nantucket; Vineyard spared
Schedules and the Steamship Authority (SSA) 2008 operating budget will top the meeting agenda when the authority members meet next week on Martha's Vineyard.
No fare increases are expected on the Vineyard side of the ledger, but riders on the Nantucket route will be asked to absorb a rate increase to make up a $700,000 budget shortfall, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said yesterday.
The monthly board meeting begins at 10:30 am in the Oak Bluffs Library meeting room. The start time was pushed back from the regular 9:30 am start to accommodate the Nantucket and New Bedford members who otherwise would have needed to arrive on the Vineyard the night before.
The massive new ferry Island Home "squeezes" by Shenandoah on the way to her Vineyard Haven slip. Photo by Susan Safford
Vineyard SSA member Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs said the meeting offers Vineyarders the chance to air their concerns and ask questions about SSA policies. One issue Mr. Hanover said he expects to raise is the question of the use of the Island Home lift decks.
Mr. Hanover said that in his view the lift decks are not being used to full advantage. He said he would like to see more flexibility from SSA management. "It is an ongoing conversation," he said.
Providing a preview of the meeting, Mr. Lamson said that following the September board meeting, management revisited some of its assumptions about fuel costs. Initially the budget was based on a price of $70 per barrel. That has since been raised to $80, Mr. Lamson said.
That estimate, coupled with a move to a low-sulfur fuel at an additional 15 cents per gallon, will add approximately $1 million to the cost of fuel, he said.
The hike in estimated fuel costs, coupled with the cost of repairs for vessels and infrastructure on the Nantucket route, has left a $700,000 hole to be filled from revenue on the Nantucket-Hyannis route. Anticipated Vineyard revenues appear sufficient to meet costs.
After meeting with truckers and looking at the schedule, management decided to add to the spring schedule by providing additional freight service and bringing the Governor into service earlier than now planned.
The added service will add crew costs on the Vineyard side, but those were offset by revised revenue projections based on strong figures in August and an additional day in 2008, a leap year. "Every little bit helps when you are trying to avoid the need for any rate increase," said Mr. Lamson.
The board will also take up the 2008 summer and fall schedules. Mr. Lamson said there are no significant changes, and a vote would allow management to start selling bulk reservations and begin the head start program before the end of the year.