SSA asks for rate hikes to fill $1.5 million budget gap


Martha’s Vineyard residents and visitors can expect to see slight increases in the cost to travel on the Steamship Authority (SSA) in 2013. On Tuesday, management recommended to the board fare increases on both island routes to cover an anticipated $1.5 million increase in the cost of service next year.

The boatline members met Tuesday on Nantucket and also approved new policies to the boatline’s emergency transportation policy and 2013 summer and fall operating schedules, according to a prepared management report on the meeting.

SSA treasurer Robert Davis presented a preliminary draft of management’s proposed 2013 operating budget to the board for review and comments.

The SSA’s total operating expenses in 2013 are expected to approach $83,100,000, which represents a $3,100,000 or 3.9 percent increase in total operating expenses, Mr. Davis said.

The most significant increases are tied to fuel, maintenance, and health care costs.

The SSA’s total operating revenues, prior to any rate increases, are projected to be around $86,500,000 for 2013, representing a 1.3 percent increase.

“Accordingly, in order to cover next year’s cost of service,” Mr. Davis said in the management report, “the SSA will need an additional $1,500,000 of revenues from anticipated rate increases (approximately $500,000 from the Martha’s Vineyard route and $1,000,000 from the Nantucket route) in order to arrive at a projected net operating income next year of around $3,157,500.

SSA management recommended that on the Vineyard route the one-way regular automobile fare be increased by $1 and the round-trip excursion fare be increased by $2. Management also recommended that the cost of the year-round annual Woods Hole/Falmouth parking permits be increased by $25.

Nantucketers can expect to pay $5 more on each leg of a trip and more for parking.

A vote on the final budget is expected when the board meets on October 22 on Martha’s Vineyard.

In July, SSA members briefly discussed what Island member Marc Hanover said was the increasing abuse of the emergency medical transportation policy that allows travelers with a doctor’s note to go ahead of reserved ticket holders and standbys.

On Tuesday, management returned to the board with a revised policy the board approved “to ensure that it is being used only for the purposes for which it was adopted, namely, for people with genuine medical emergencies,” according to a management report of the meeting.

Under the revised policy the SSA will continue to board an ambulance or a customer’s vehicle without delay for emergency medical care. Customers who must travel to attend to a death or unexpected serious illness or injury of a member of the customer’s immediate family on the mainland will also receive preferential treatment.

Customers in standby traveling for medical reasons and those in severe pain, distress or discomfort will also receive preferential treatment. A Mashpee reservations supervisor, or in the off hours a terminal agent, will make the determination to provide special treatment.

The customer will be required to provide written verification from his or her physician or health care provider of the customer’s urgent need to travel on the SSA’s ferry without delay, according to the management report. Individuals traveling on standby for routine medical or dental care are not eligible for preferential boarding of their vehicles.

In other business, the board approved management’s proposed 2013 summer and fall operating schedules. There are few changes. The 2013 summer schedule will start on May 16, 2013 and end on October 15, 2013.

The hazardous trips on the Martha’s Vineyard route will be consolidated so that there will be only one hazardous trip each way on Mondays through Saturdays, except for Wednesdays when the SSA will also continue to run a second hazardous trip.