SSA pitches fare increases


The Steamship Authority predicts a net income of $2.4 million for 2020, a figure it finds too low. In order to arrive at a net income of $7.4 million, a number the ferry line finds safer, it has proposed increasing fares. The proposed fares include premium rates for weekend travel during the summer.

Under a draft proposal, nonexcursion vehicles 17 feet or less on the Vineyard route would be charged $4 more regular ($85 instead of $81) from April 1 to Oct. 31. However, an unprecedented charge would be incurred on nonexcursion vehicles 17 or less from May 15 to Sept. 14. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, those same vehicles would be charged $19 more ($100 instead of $81). Nonexcursion vehicles over 17 feet crossing on any of the same days between May 15 and Sept. 14 would also see a $19 hike ($110 instead of $91). Nonexcursion vehicles in the off-season, Jan. 1 to May 15, and Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, over and under 17 feet would see a $11.50 increase.

For excursion fares, which are the fares charged to Islanders, an across-the-board $5 increase in-season and off-season is proposed.

A 10-ride vehicle fare book would jump from $730 to $850. All freight rates would see increases both in-season and off-season. 

Annual parking rates in Woods Hole and Falmouth lots would increase by $50.

Freight rates for vehicles 20 feet or less will jump between $5 and $19.

Driscoll noted the overwhelming majority of freight comes to the Vineyard on vehicles between 20 feet and 65 feet, and no hikes are proposed for vehicles in that size range. 

No passenger fares would increase. Nantucket would also see fare increases.

“It’s driven largely by maintenance costs next year,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll wrote in an email to The Times; “we have one more drydock scheduled in 2020 than in 2019, for example, as well as $750,000 in repairs to the Oak Bluffs dock — as well as costs associated with implementing the recommendations of the HMS report, including additional personnel.” 

Driscoll said the SSA historically tried to maintain a $7 million net income. The figure cushions the SSA against emergencies and dry dock contingencies — “it’s a long span of time between the budget process and the awarding of the contract,” he noted. 

While the subject will be raised Tuesday on Nantucket at the SSA board’s monthly meeting, no vote will be taken. That vote is scheduled for an Oct. 15 board meeting on the Vineyard, he said. 


  1. The Steamship Authority is by far and away the most expensively run ferry system in the country, unsubsidized and subsidized alike. Even excursion fares are the highest fares per mile in the country.

    1. Steamship Authority (Unsubsidized, pays no tax by state mandate, regulates all other competitors by state mandate)
    Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard
    Distance: 7 miles
    Crossing time: 45 minutes

    For vehicle under 17’ without driver:
    On season (proposed) Fri-Sun one way: $100 ($14.29/mile)
    On season (proposed) Mon-Thurs one way: $85 ($12.14/mile)
    Off season (proposed) one way: $55 ($7.86/mile)
    On season excursion (proposed) round trip: $99 ($7.07/mile)
    Off season excursion (proposed) round trip: $68 ($4.86/mile)

    2. The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company (Unsubsidized, Privately Owned)
    Bridgeport to Port Jefferson
    Distance: 18 Miles
    Crossing time: 75 minutes

    One way car and driver:
    Off peak: $59 ($3.28/mile)
    Peak: $62 ($3.44/mile)

    3. Cross Sound Ferry (Unsubsidized, Privately Owned)
    New London to Orient Point
    Distance: 16 miles
    Crossing Time: 80 minutes

    Priority Auto and Driver one way: $73 ($4.56/mile)
    Auto and Driver one way: $61 ($3.81/mile)

    4. Cape May-Lewes Ferry (State Owned)
    Cape May to Lewes
    Distance 17 miles
    Crossing time: 85 minutes

    One way Mon-Thurs: $35 ($2.06/mile)
    Fri-Sun & holidays each way: $38 ($2.24/mile)

    5. North Carolina Ferry System (State Owned)
    Cedar Island to Ocracoke
    Crossing Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
    Distance: 22 miles

    Vehicle and/or combination less than 20’ including Driver: $15 ($.68/mile)

    6. Washington State Ferries (State Owned)
    Seattle to Bremerton Route
    Crossing Time: 1 hr
    Distance: 17 miles

    Vehicle under 22’ including driver peak season: $19.15 ($2.23/mile)


  2. This is complete and utter BS!!!! It is true that they are already ridiculously over priced!!! People had better stand together against this proposal.

  3. I neither support nor decry the SSA’s proposed rate increase, however comparing rates based solely on distance traveled is a sorely flawed analysis. The Chappy Ferry is then roughly $60 per mile for a car and driver to travel 527 FEET which eclipses the SSA’s highest proposed rate by a factor of four.

    Regardless of distance traveled, mass transportation systems; bus, train, plane, or ferry, all incur dynamic departure and arrival costs which easily skew a purely distance based computation and must be included when budgeting operational costs. So too are the static costs of terminal infrastructures, maintenance costs, capital investment, etc.

    Surely legitimate criticism of the SSA can be levied based on expenditures which fail to limit fare increases and/or add value to their customers … such as advertising in spite of fully packed vessels.

  4. It is too bad the headline did not read, “SSA pitches reliable service for good value.”
    But then that would be too reasonable.

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