SSA borrows VTA bus for test drives

The Steamship Authority board authorized the purchase of four new shuttle buses Tuesday. — George Brennan

The Steamship Authority put a Vineyard Transportation Authority diesel bus to work on Woods Hole Road Thursday evening to test its performance between Woods Hole and the Palmer lot. It will continue on runs for an undetermined number of days, according to Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll.

“No, you’re not on the wrong side of the sound,” Driscoll posted on the SSA Facebook page Thursday. “Thanks to our friends at the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA), we have borrowed one of their low-floor buses to test on our route between the Woods Hole terminal and the Palmer Avenue lot. We’re evaluating how well they perform with passengers and luggage, so keep your eyes peeled and hop on board!”

The SSA is looking at the VTA buses because of the gripes it has received about new buses recently added to its fleet, Driscoll said. The new buses have a higher step, so the SSA is also looking to see if the VTA buses are more customer-friendly.

“This style of bus [VTA] has some obvious advantages, including the low-floor entrance and a second point of egress,” operations manager Mark Rozum said in a release. “It also has some potential drawbacks, such as the lack of luggage compartments and the price, which is more than double what we have paid for buses in the past.”

The Steamship Authority hasn’t yet determined whether it would be permissible under Department of Transportation regulations to run the VTA-style buses, Driscoll noted, as the VTA and the Steamship Authority are classified differently in the eyes of Uncle Sam.

In other Steamship Authority news, the ferry service has selected a new operations and communications manager.

“Joseph Russas, a 27-year employee of the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, has been selected to serve as the manager of the newly created Operations and Communications Center,” a release states. “The center is in the process of being established at the authority’s Palmer Avenue headquarters.”