Teenagers stranded in Falmouth after bus misses ferry

Steamship Authority did not wait for late Peter Pan bus, passengers say.

SSA general manager Bob Davis, far right, shown at a Steamship Authority board meeting, says ferries wait when alerted by bus travelers . — Gabrielle Mannino

Dylan Contreras, Violet Kennedy, and Kate Sudarsky boarded a Peter Pan bus at the South Station Bus Terminal on May 29. Contreras, a student at the Boston Conservatory, was just taking a short trip to Edgartown to visit friends. Kennedy and Sudarsky, longtime friends, were headed home to Chilmark and West Tisbury, respectively. The scheduled 8 pm journey didn’t get under way until about 8:30 pm, they told The Times.

The bus arrived late, Sudarsky wrote in a text message, and “sat at the gate for another 20-30 minutes before it loaded.”

“Before arriving in Falmouth, the driver made an announcement, saying he was going to skip over the Falmouth stop to try and get us to the boat on time, and that he’d bring the Falmouth passengers afterwards,” Kennedy wrote. “We got to the boat at 9:47, and the boat was gone …”

Contreras told The Times in a telephone interview the bus was full of foreign guest workers. “Most of the people on that bus were people coming from Russia,” he said.

“I felt so bad for them. They had just arrived in America, and were headed to the Vineyard for the summer,” Sudarsky wrote.

The bus driver told Contreras he called the Steamship Authority and asked them to ring the booth to hold the ferry, but the booth never was contacted, Contreras said.

“[The bus driver] was parked there [Woods Hole] for about 20 minutes, talking to someone there, but there was no urgency from the other SSA workers,” Kennedy wrote.

“He dropped us off in Falmouth,” Sudarsky wrote, “and seemed like he felt bad, but sorry doesn’t get us on a boat …”

“I use Peter Pan so often,” Kennedy wrote, “and have had that driver dozens of times. I’m part of their ‘Peter Pan perks’ program, and I’m just infuriated because I have no choice but to give them my money. The drivers are always kind, but the company is a mess …”

Contreras said he met up with the two Islanders, whom he didn’t previously know, and eventually hatched a plan to walk from the Falmouth Bus Station to Inn on the Square to secure lodging.

“He was super-nice,” Kennedy wrote of Contreras. “He was really confused, and I don’t blame him. He asked if the driver could drive us back to Boston. It was a waste of money.”

To Contreras’ surprise, they were denied a room at Inn on the Square because they were under 21 years old.

“It was really unfortunate,” Sudarsky wrote. “I thought we might run into trouble, but I didn’t expect them to actually turn us down because of the situation.”

They wouldn’t allow a parent to call or send any kind of permission, Contreras said. They were told a parent must be there in person for them to be able to rent a room.

A desk attendant at Inn on the Square told The Times no manager was available for comment on the matter, and referred calls to Newport Hotels, the establishment’s parent company. Several calls to Newport Hotels’ corporate office were not returned prior to press time.

Rebuffed on that evening, the three went back out into the dark.

“We were standing in the road in the middle of the night,” Contreras said, when the decision was made to Uber over to the Holiday Inn.

The desk attendant there was more sympathetic. “Only because you’re from the Island am I letting you check in,” Contreras recalled they were told.

“The guy that ended up helping us was so kind. He was incredibly understanding of our situation, and really helped so much,” Sudarsky said.

Holiday Inn Cape Cod–Falmouth general manager Michael McDonald wasn’t aware his staff had helped out the stranded trio, but he was pleased to hear it.

“Every hotel is different, to be honest,” he told The Times. “Typically if you have an ID with a credit card, it should be sufficient.”

He noted some establishments can be wary of renting to young people because they fear partying and the damage it can cause. He also said he has kids, and if they got in that kind of fix in the future, he hoped they’d be helped in the same way.

Asked if they had anything to say to the Steamship Authority or Peter Pan Bus Lines, the three certainly did.

“The fact that there were minors and locals — there needs to be a way,” Contreras said of the Steamship Authority. “They just need to have a backup plan for those situations, and have better communications with the bus companies.”

“There’s a lot of responsibility as a company that monopolizes the travel options for an entire Island (and more),” Kennedy wrote, “and clearly neither the SSA nor Peter Pan see the need to improve the quality of service they provide for so many people. Travel is stressful, and the best part to being stuck on a crowded bus is when you get off it and go home.”

“Do better. That’s it. Just do better,” Sudarsky wrote.

“The Steamship or Peter Pan should have gotten us rooms,” Kennedy wrote. “They haven’t reimbursed us for the trip, and I don’t think they will. I have not reached out yet, but would love to.”

Sudarsky hasn’t reached out to either transportation company.

“I didn’t think it would do any good,” she wrote.

Contreras said he received a $55 credit for another bus ride from Peter Pan. But he probably won’t use it, because when he tries to come to the Vineyard again, he’s “definitely not taking the bus,” he said.

In an email to The Times, Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis wrote that the burden of communication falls on Peter Pan in such an instance.

“Although we will hold the boat on the last trip if the Peter Pan bus notifies us that they are nearby, we received no notification from them as to their ETA on May 29,” he wrote. “With regards to accommodations, the terminal employee[s] would provide a list of area hotels and phone numbers if requested.”

Peter Pan Bus Lines did not return numerous calls to their corporate office.



  1. “With regards to accommodations, the terminal employee[s] would provide a list of area hotels and phone numbers if requested.” And these kids would know that how? Certainly not because the said employees volunteered that information. Peter Pan says it called ahead and the SSA says they didn’t, or no message was transmitted, and NEITHER PP or SSA felt in any way obligated to help the kids out? And yet we’re at your mercy. Mr. Davis, given the near-daily problems with the ships and consequent problems, one might think you and everyone there would be instructed to bend over backwards to help. Perhaps Bridget Tobin could teach a class to show how that’s done. But I guess as one of the victims said, PP and the SSA are near-monopolies, so who really cares?

    • And as “near-monopolies” each has it’s respective priorities and authorities. If the SSA acquired PP (or some other line), it could be held accountable for “clearing the late night bus arrivals”. Anyone want to speak up for expanding the SSA juggernaut?

  2. Thank you to the Holiday Inn. I can only imagine the turmoil in the minds of the stranded kids, young adults or whomever it may have been. I am grateful they found safety. I hate to think of the fear their parents experienced as well. Twice I had serious operations. At MGH and Tufts. We would miss the last boat on our way home from day surgery on my rotator cuff at MGH. The operation, far more extensive and longer than expected. My husband called the Holiday Inn. Blizzard conditions. At 11:00 at night a young woman told us to just go room### and wait for her. We did not need to check in first, could do that later. Heat was turned on, driveway was plowed, room was on the bottom floor to the left. I had to take about ten steps. Could she get me anything? I only wished I had the energy to hug her in kindness. The back surgery even worse. Boats stopped running after I spent five days at Tufts and we drove home to Woods Hole in blizzard conditions. Three years, almost to the date, of the shoulder surgery. The Holiday Inn, again to the rescue. Again, professional and kind. Again, beyond accommodating to a stranded Islander in dire pain. “Let me get you a bag of ice”, really – such care and comfort, the hospital didn’t even send me home with a bag of ice. How lucky we are to know the Holiday Inn will take care of our stranded children and go the extra mile in conditions we have no control over. We only stay and recommend the Holiday Inn when in Falmouth. Many thanks.

  3. Why didn’t the Times look into the fates of the guest workers on board? The bus was “full of foreign guest workers,” Russians, according to one of the young people involved. I’m guessing it was even tougher on them to be abandoned in a strange place.

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