Updated June 29
Frustrations with the Steamship Authority have boiled over into a petition calling for a resident-only commuter ferry that prioritizes trips to and from Martha’s Vineyard by Islanders.
The petition was created by Vineyard artisan and business owner Rachel Baumrin Thursday morning. In a phone conversation with The Times, Baumrin said she had been thinking about the issue for the past few weeks, and felt something needed to be done and someone needed to stand up.
“I just think they’ve forgotten it’s supposed to be about getting people off the Island too,” Baumrin said. “They’re a monopoly, and we have to hold them accountable.”
In addition to setting up the petition, which has garnered more than 900 signatures in the past week, Baumrin sent messages to state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and the SSA. She said the SSA called her back and left a message, but she has not yet responded. The Times could not immediately reach Fernandes for comment.
She went on to say the issue is not just in the summer, but that year-round Islanders struggle with the ferry. “It’s not a summer problem, it’s a Steamship problem, and I think they’re just being very mismanaged,” she said.
Baumrin is hopeful that putting a group of like-minded people together and asking for change can make a commuter ferry a reality. Once she’s collected her goal of 500 signatures, she plans to reach out to Fernandes and state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro.
“To me I think it’s worth getting Fernandes and Cyr to negotiate something that will work here,” she said. “We are not happy. We are fed up and this does not work, and we need a solution.”
In a statement to The Times SSA general manager Robert Davis said the SSA recognizes a change in dynamics for travel to and from the Island post-COVID.
“Therefore, we need to assess whether the current system of setting aside space for Island residents across numerous trips, which provides travel options throughout the day, remains appropriate and meets demand. The Steamship Authority will work with Island residents to evaluate whether current allocated spaces are reflective of the trips they want to be on — and that there are enough of them — in order to determine future space allocations.”
Meanwhile, in a separate post on the Islanders Talk Facebook page, a photo posted at 8 pm Thursday showed a long line of cars on Woods Hole Road waiting to get on the ferry.
Falmouth Police Chief Edward Dunne told The Times officers were dispatched Wednesday evening to Woods Hole Road to see what was causing the backup. Chief Dunne said they found no accident or other cause other than there being a high traffic volume — ”a lot of people trying to get into one location.”
Dunne said the traffic was backed up past Church Street.
The post featured more than 140 comments from people, many expressing their frustration with waiting, and some even missing their ferry reservation.
“We have been in line from the top of the hill for 18 minutes … one guy in the check-in booth…we have a reservation on the 8:30 pm,” Susie Wallo wrote. “Lived on MV 42 years and never ever seen this before … and this is a Wednesday in June.”
Jamie Spears Vanderhoop said her husband missed his reservation. “My husband was stuck in that line, and missed his 7:30 reservation,” she wrote. “Thankfully he has a doctor’s note from Children’s, and will hopefully get back tonight. An employee told him that people have been in standby for 9-plus hours today.”
Another commenter, David Murphy, wrote that he was 40 minutes early for his 7:45 pm reservation. “Exactly 40 minutes in traffic to get to the booth,” he wrote. ‘You just missed your boat,’ he said. I went ballistic.”
Murphy estimated the booth worker was processing one vehicle per minute. “That, my friends, is the problem in a nutshell,” he wrote, urging the SSA to get more help at the booth.
Rosie Shugrue posted about her parents getting stuck in the traffic after arriving earlier and being told they were too early. “They came back and waited in this god-awful line until 9:30; after obviously missing their boat, they missed the last one too,” she wrote. “To quote my mom: ‘A colossal cluster [expletive]’ and something she’s never seen in her 73 years coming to the Island. Now they are searching for a place to stay tonight, for which they will of course not be compensated by the SSA.”
In another statement, Davis said the traffic was the result of an unexpected high volume of standby vehicles.
“Steamship Authority personnel did their best to process and move the vehicles along as quickly as possible, given the finite physical footprint of the terminal property,” Davis said. “We intend to further investigate and assess what needs to be done to avoid this congestion in the future.”
Updated to include comments from Davis.