SSA reservation office moves to Martha’s Vineyard airport terminal

The Steamship Authority will open a reservation office in the Martha's Vineyard Airport terminal Monday. — File photo by Susan Safford

The Steamship Authority (SSA) will open a new reservation office in the Martha’s Vineyard Airport terminal on Monday, December 19. The office was formerly located in a building off the airport entrance road.

The SSA has been setting up the phone lines and data lines that will serve the new location. Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, told The Times the move is going smoothly thanks in great part to the cooperation of the airport commission and airport staff.

Mr. Lamson said the move would result in no change in staffing or functions. The new location in the terminal adjacent to car rentals and airline companies provides a good intermodal fit, he said.

“It is a great space and a great location, and I think residents are going to like it,” he said.

The reservation counter will be open between 8 am and 4:30 pm, seven days a week. However, those hours could change.

The SSA is considering moving the start time people can attempt to buy a preferred reservation space to ease congestion at the Vineyard Haven terminal from 8 am to 7:30 am (see accompanying story).

On the go

The SSA began looking for new space after it learned that the owners of the building that housed its office would not renew the boatline’s lease after it expired in January.

The SSA had considered ways to cut costs at an office where traffic has shifted to the web. That discussion raised fears that the office would close and generated support from Island residents for its continued operation.

In June meeting on Nantucket, Mr. Lamson announced that Island Professional Realty Trust LLC, the new owners of the SSA reservations office building at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport had other plans for the building, and the lease would not be extended past January 31, 2012.

“As a result, we now have to evaluate the benefits versus the costs of continuing to have a reservations office at another location on the Island, in light of fewer reservation transactions being handled in person each year,” Mr. Lamson, wrote in the meeting management report.

According to the report, the reservations office handled 17,910 counter transactions in 2010 compared to 30,166 in 2006 and 47,333 in 2001.

The reservations office cost the boatline about $300,000 annually. That figure included the salaries and wages of as many as six fulltime employees ($218,000) and lease payments of $23,304.

The base rent, for the new airport terminal space subject to CPI indexed annual adjustments, is $1,757.41 per month.

When the SSA board met in July on the Vineyard the members assured residents who had turned out to press the boatline to maintain an Island office that it was not planning to close the Island reservation office, just cut expenses.

Robert Marshall of Falmouth, SSA chairman, took note of the cost at the meeting in the Katharine Cornell Memorial Theatre. “That’s about $18 per individual visit,” he said.

Mr. Marshall said he was not advocating closing the facility or eliminating jobs, only reducing the cost per visit to something that “makes sense.”

George Balco, Tisbury port council representative, told the members that SSA customers “get individual TLC, and that’s very important.”

In October, Mr. Lamson said he had received three responses to a request for proposals for counter space or office space, offering rents between $2,100 and $3,500 a month. He recommended and the members agreed that the SSA lease counter space at the airport.

At its November 15 meeting in Woods Hole the SSA agreed to a five-year lease, beginning December 1, with the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission for counter space and office space at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Terminal.

A letter to the editor that appears on page 11 in this week’s print edition of The Times over the signatures of six reservation employees notes the widespread public support. “We appreciate all the letters, calls and emails that were sent to management and the letters that were sent to the newspapers,” the employees wrote. “The correspondence was instrumental in making sure the service we provide to you, our customers, continues.”

The Vineyard and Mashpee reservation offices are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.