The Steamship Authority port council voted 3-1 to approve the proposed 2022 Martha’s Vineyard ferry schedule during a Zoom meeting on Thursday morning. The schedule includes a seasonal 5:30 am freight boat that continues to be a source of division between the ferry line and Woods Hole residents. The one dissenting vote was from council member Rob Munier, who was concerned about how Falmouth would be affected, and Mark Rees abstained from voting, saying it was appropriate to stay neutral since he is a representative from Fairhaven.
Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis told the council plans are in the works to seek bids for those interested in conducting licensed freight operations from New Bedford or another off-Cape port to Martha’s Vineyard.
According to Davis, advertisements for the proposed 2022–23 ferry schedules for Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were posted on its website and in newspapers. However, the 5:30 am ferry caught the attention of Falmouth residents, and led to a petition signed by 103 individuals against the schedules. At issue is that early morning freight run, and the disruption it causes to people living near and along the route to the Woods Hole terminal. The SSA conducted an analysis of its ferry traffic, and even considered shifting the entire schedule forward by 30 minutes.
“If we were to move those vehicles to other trips, we would have a domino effect in terms of what vehicles can go on what vessels,” Davis said. He mentioned how a shift in schedules like this would affect bus connections and commuters. Davis also said keeping the 5:30 am schedule spreads out the traffic better.
Munier expressed concern about how Falmouth would be affected by the amount of traffic and noise. He said this has caused some Falmouth residents to develop an “us versus them” mentality toward Martha’s Vineyard.
“We need to be creative,” Munier said. “We need to come up with grander solutions and have more strategic views in years to come.”
The port council vote is a recommendation. The schedule is ultimately approved by the SSA board, which meets on Sept. 28.
Council member John Cahill pointed out that Martha’s Vineyard has experienced a 25 percent population increase since 2010, which would be part of what drives more trucks and traffic to the Island. He also pointed out how the officials from Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard need to collaborate to solve the problems they face, bringing up the antagonistic attitude he has seen some Falmouth officials express about the Island. “The problem is on both sides,” Cahill said.