SSA says Wi-Fi service has improved

Following a passenger complaint, boatline says passengers, employees must adhere to no-smoking rules.

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The Steamship Authority was finishing up improvements to the Vineyard Haven staging area on Wednesday. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Steamship Authority (SSA) free Wi-Fi service, often of intermittent quality in the past, has seen dramatic improvements following an upgrade in technology, SSA director of information technologies Mary Claffey told boatline members last week.

Ms. Claffey reported on the SSA’s efforts to improve the connectivity of its free Wi-Fi service at the boatline’s monthly board meeting held May 12, according to a management synopsis of the discussion. Ms. Claffey said that “after the SSA made significant upgrades and transitioned to a leading-edge technology, it has seen dramatic increases in the Wi-Fi’s usage and much better throughput.”

Ms. Claffey said many of the problems travelers encountered in accessing the Internet were due to the fact that they were using cellphones with all of their websites bookmarked instead of using a browser to get to them. Ms. Claffey stated that, as a result, they do not see the initial page, where customers see the SSA’s terms and conditions of usage, and have to click on the “I agree” button in order to use the Wi-Fi.

She said the SSA is working on a solution that will cause that page to appear automatically on different devices. She also noted that there is no Wi-Fi service on a vessel’s freight deck, which may also account for complaints.

Less wait on waitlist

Reporting on several improvements the SSA is making to its online reservations system, SSA General Manager Wayne Lamson said the general public will soon be given the option of allowing their waitlist requests to be filled up to 12 noon the day before their scheduled departure. Currently, the SSA stops processing customer waitlist requests 48 hours in advance of the customer’s scheduled departure. Finally, the SSA is working toward processing waitlist requests on a real-time basis, instead of processing them once a day in the late evening. As a result, customers will be informed more quickly when the SSA is able to provide them with their waitlist requests, management reported.

Smoking on the job

Frequent SSA travelers are familiar with the sight of SSA employees smoking on the job. Last month, a customer complained to board members about SSA employees smoking at the Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven terminals while collecting tickets.

According to the management synopsis, “a review of the SSA’s policies confirmed that SSA employees are prohibited from smoking while performing their duties, including loading vehicles and collecting passenger tickets, and that customers are also prohibited from smoking on any terminal ramps (as well as on any vessel or in any SSA building, van, or bus). But no policy specifically prohibits customers from smoking when they are in line to board a ferry.”

The SSA members approved a staff recommendation to add passenger queuing lines to the list of locations where smoking is prohibited on SSA property. “The SSA will be enforcing this policy by, among other things, posting signs, and asking customers not to smoke out of courtesy to their fellow passengers.”

In a follow up, The Times asked SSA general manager Wayne Lamson if employees are allowed to smoke while on duty and not performing their duties, or only during designated breaks.

Mr. Lamson, in an email to The Times, responded, “Employees are allowed to smoke on SSA property but not in terminal buildings, on vessels or buses and not while performing duties such as collecting tickets or checking in vehicles. There are no designated work breaks or smoking breaks.”

Not all ferry companies allow employees to smoke while at work. A spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, told The Times that Washington State Ferry employees are not allowed to smoke at all, while on duty or during breaks.

Cost breakdown

Also last week, SSA Treasurer/Comptroller Robert Davis described each route’s respective cost of service for passengers, automobiles, and trucks during the 2014 calendar year. The analysis helps determine how costs will be allocated between the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket routes.

On the Martha’s Vineyard side of the ledger, Mr. Davis said that in 2014, total vessel operating costs increased by $177,118, or 0.7 percent; total indirect non-vessel costs decreased by $280,622, or 1.2 percent, principally due to decreases in dolphin and dock repairs; and, as a result, the overall cost of service for the Martha’s Vineyard route decreased by $103,504, or 0.2 percent, from 2013.

The number of trips operated increased by 63 in 2014, with total capacity for the year increasing by 3,560 car-equivalent unit spaces. The number of spaces occupied increased by 9,673, or 1.6 percent, from 2013, resulting in an increase of the occupancy rate from 79.9 percent in 2013 to 80.8 percent in 2014.

The estimated cost of a car-equivalent unit space was $52.32 in 2014, down from $53.55 in 2013. On average, automobiles covered 91.4 percent of their allocated cost of service, with standard-fare automobiles covering 123.4 percent and excursion-fare automobiles covering 38.1 percent.

By comparison, on average, trucks were covering 108.8 percent of their allocated cost of service.

By comparison, the overall cost of service for the Nantucket route decreased by $1,135,587, or 4.2 percent, from 2013.

The number of trips operated increased by 63 in 2014, and 3,060 more spaces were provided in 2014 than in 2013. The total number of spaces occupied increased by 6,155, resulting in an increase in the occupancy rate from 80.9 percent in 2013 to 82.7 percent in 2014.

The estimated cost of a car-equivalent unit space was $117.35 in 2014, down from $129.36 in 2013. On average, automobiles were covering 128.3 percent of their allocated cost of service, with standard-fare automobiles covering 164.8 percent and excursion-fare automobiles covering 45.8 percent. By comparison, on average, trucks were covering 98.1 percent of their allocated cost of service.