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VTA called best option for Chappy ferryA subgroup of a committee appointed by the Edgartown selectmen to consider future options for the Chappaquiddick ferry last night recommended the Vineyard Transit Authority as the best option to operate the service.
The committee members' recommendation is contained in a report distributed at a meeting of the Purchase the Chappy Ferry Committee (PCFC) last night. The small group decided to issue a minority report after it appeared that the committee as a whole would be unable to reach a consensus.
The Edgartown selectmen appointed the committee after long-time ferry owner Roy Hayes offered the ferry for sale for approximately $3 million. The initial charge was only to consider a town purchase. Committee members asked to broaden their examination to consider other options.
Long staging lines, rising fares, and uncertainty over the ferry's future have been the topics of discussion among residents and town officials for months.
The small, three-car vehicle and passenger ferry crosses Edgartown Harbor and provides the only link to Chappaquiddick. Rumors have circulated for several weeks that a private buyer is interested in a purchase but there has been no confirmation by any of the principals.
The report is broken into five sections. These include a review of the important influences and risks such as demographic changes like the growing population of Chappy.
There is also a list of recommendations to the selectmen that calls for the creation of a ferry advisory board and careful oversight of ferry finances.
Under the "VTA option," the committee members wrote, "We were naturally first drawn to private ownership for all the obvious reasons, but we know now that a new owner would be saddled with expenses far greater than the current owner.... We believe that the VTA has the best chances of providing optimal services and at the same time reasonably reducing ticket prices."
The report includes a list of advantages to VTA ownership. They include the likelihood of government grants to purchase new ferries, tax advantages, familiarity with state and federal transportation programs that could help reduce costs and ticket prices, and an experienced management structure that should better serve the public during emergencies.
The report states, "The VTA is currently in the people moving business. They handle over $1,000,000 in cash from fares annually. They are very likely to bring better internal cash handling controls to the ferry business."
The report also contains a list of disadvantages. Those include the possibility of no government financial assistance. Also, Edgartown has only a 26 percent vote on the VTA board.
Regarding private ownership, the report states, "We believe that the lack of competition and the acquisition costs to a future owner will most assuredly drive ticket prices even higher. We believe that these higher prices can be avoided or at least abated by adopting the VTA model and, therefore, by adopting this private ownership model we would do a disservice to the community."