Islanders looking to take a bus from Woods Hole to either Boston’s Logan Airport or T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island will soon have a choice.
On Tuesday, the Steamship Authority board voted unanimously to approve a proposal by Plymouth & Brockton bus lines to offer seven roundtrips to Logan and two roundtrips to T.F. Green. They’ll join Peter Pan bus lines, which offers a dozen trips to and from Boston.
P&B first proposed the idea in March 2020, but it was put on hold because of questions about whether Falmouth’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp. was onboard with the bus service using its Falmouth bus depot.
Then COVID-19 hit.
John Cogliano, president of P&B, told The Times in an interview last week that he’d been having trouble getting the SSA’s attention since April of this year. Once The Times started asking questions of the SSA, the P&B service was added to the board’s agenda.
Terence Kenneally, attorney for the SSA, said the bus service would be charged a monthly fee of about $5,000 to use the terminal. Peter Pan would be charged the same fee. (Previously, the bus service paid the SSA a commission to sell its tickets, but that won’t be happening anymore, Kenneally said.)
“I think this is a fantastic opportunity to add additional transportation options to the passengers to the Steamship ferries, and also the residents on Martha’s Vineyard and in Falmouth for that matter,” Cogliano said.
As a selling point, he said a loaded bus could take up to 55 vehicles off the road.
“The pricing is very competitive, and I think the customers will welcome this,” Cogliano said. In an earlier interview, he said P&B would charge $11 less per round-trip than Peter Pan charges.
“We’re introducing new service to T.F. Green, which truly is a game-changer,” he said.
James Malkin, the Vineyard’s representative to the board, said the SSA had just gotten the proposed schedule and, indeed, he first read it online in The Times. “If that timeline is correct, are we now satisfied that the management side of the board, that we have all the information necessary for us to vote on this and move forward?” he said.
General manager Robert Davis said that with construction ongoing at the terminal, it will become more problematic. However, the SSA is looking to try to make this work, he said.
Frank Dougherty, vice president of operations for Peter Pan, questioned allowing P&B to provide the service. “Are we going to have a year-round requirement on the lease agreement dollar value, so that one company or the other can’t abandon the service during the winter months when there isn’t a lot of meat on the bone?” he asked among several other questions.
Dougherty said travel is down, and health concerns have reduced bus industry ridership. “Competition is good. I think it’s probably good for people in the short term, but in the long term there has to be a survivability rate for either one of the two companies in order to make this work,” he said. “I hate to see this happen before you’ve had an opportunity to make sure you’re not taking a position that forces you to be some sort of referee between two competing bus companies down on your facility.”
Bob Jones, a Barnstable representative, made the motion to allow the service with management working out the licensing details.