Steamship Authority management floated across-the-board rate hikes to the Port Council Wednesday morning.
For the Vineyard route, standard vehicle fares would increase $4 off-peak and $6 in peak season, Monday through Thursday, while excursion rates could increase $2.50 off-peak and $3.50 peak, one way. Trucks are projected to receive a 7 percent increase for passage. For passengers, single tickets would increase $1, a 10-ride pass would increase $8 ($69 to $77), and a 46-ride pass would jump $17 ($146 to $163). Parking permits are projected to rise another $50 per year. The increases are preliminary, and still must be voted on by both the Port Council and the SSA board, and are also subject to a public comment period. Votes are expected in November.
The last time the SSA tried to raise excursion rates, Vineyarders were unhappy and the ferry line backed down.
Nantucket Port Council member Nathaniel Lowell was taken aback when he heard how much the high-speed ferry booklets would increase on the Hyannis to Nantucket run — $275 to $300.
“You want to go up 25 bucks for the book?” he asked. “You guys all right or what? Like, that’s going to blow us up over here, just so you know.”
Oak Bluffs Port Council member Robert Huss said he wanted to see a standard percentage increase each year, as opposed to ad hoc increases. SSA treasurer Mark Rozum said it was his goal to do so, hopefully at a rate of 2 to 3 percent. As a whole, SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll later told The Times, the rate adjustments average out to roughly a 7 percent increase for 2021.
He noted the preliminary rate proposals reflect fixed-cost increases in things like payroll and drydocking, plus increased depreciation costs. They also reflect estimated 2021 revenue of $112,437,440, a figure that’s down roughly 5 percent from the previous year’s estimate. The revenue is modeled in part on passenger traffic from March 2019 to February 2020, and then reduced by 10 percent, Driscoll said.
“Any increase is going to hurt everybody at a time when everybody is hurting,” Oak Bluffs Business Association president Christine Todd later told The Times. Todd is also a Dukes County commissioner.