SSA renews VTA, high school contracts, expands schedule

The Steamship Authority (SSA) met last week and renewed several agreements and bolstered the late summer, early fall schedules in response to complaints that reservations were unavailable in early fall.

The SSA renewed its contract with the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority (VTA) to continue providing shuttle service between the Tisbury Park ‘n Ride lot and the Vineyard Haven terminal through December 31, 2016, with one significant change.

In the past, vehicles could remain in the lot for free for seven days. At the town’s request, that period will be reduced to four days.

The VTA shuttle van is expected to leave the town parking lot off State Road 15 minutes before each vessel’s scheduled departure and meet each vessel’s scheduled arrival. In return, the SSA reimburses the VTA for 50 percent of the direct labor and fuel costs attributable to the service plus $200 per month to cover maintenance, insurance, and other indirect costs, according to the SSA.

At the November 18 meeting boatline members also renewed its transportation agreement with the regional school district under which it will provide school-related approved transportation at a fixed price of $60,000 for a one-year period beginning July 1, 2015. The contract rate has remained unchanged for the last four years and represents an approximately 50 percent discount, the SSA said.

Regular travel was also on the agenda Tuesday. Responding to complaints that service was insufficient to meet demand when the summer schedule shifted to fall, the board approved a request to add service on the Vineyard route during the early fall.

The SSA will shift the Katama to an earlier schedule to meet morning demand by changing the 7:15 am, 9:45 am and 12:15 pm departures from Vineyard Haven to 6:30 am, 8:30 am and 11 am “to accommodate Island residents who wish to travel off-Island as early in the day as possible.”

It will also man the Governor with a single crew for the first six days of the fall schedule, “thus making it capable of operating up to 12 hours per day depending upon weather conditions and service demands.”

Looking ahead, the members approved management’s proposed 2015 capital budget which includes 18 new projects. The SSA plans to issue $40 million in bonds for the construction of its newest ferry, Woods Hole, and $6 million in bonds for the construction of new administrative offices.

In addition to those projects, new capital projects include: replacement of three shuttle buses; replacement of eight rescue boats; and security and spam filter upgrades.

The SSA also announced that reservations for the summer season will be accepted by mail and Internet through the headstart program from January 6 to 11. Reservations will be opened to the general public by mail and Internet beginning January 13. Telephone reservations open January 20.

Reservation-only (no standby) days will be every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from June 19 through September 7, as well as from May 22 through May 26 (Memorial Day), and October 9 and October 12 (Columbus Day), the SSA reported.