Jim Malkin, the Vineyard’s representative to the Steamship Authority board, briefly updated the Oak Bluffs select board on Tuesday regarding SSA scheduling and passenger traffic.
Malkin said as of last year, there has been a 21 percent increase in trips compared with the 2010 schedule, but weather-related diversions “happen with an increasingly greater frequency” in the fall, due to the terminal’s northeastern orientation.
Malkin said he often hears concerns from the Oak Bluffs Business Association regarding canceled or diverted ferries, which affect profitability. Upon speaking with ferry captains, it is apparent that they prefer to come into Oak Bluffs to avoid the “pleasure boat congestion” in Vineyard Haven during the summer.
Select board vice chair Gail Barmakian suggested a future in-depth analysis of the angles of the ferry terminal, which could help in determining possible modifications to alleviate the diversion problems.
In response to recent inquiries concerning increasing fall trips and passenger traffic Malkin said — given the select board’s request or recommendation — he “would be happy to meet” with reps for Hyline, Seastreak and Island Queen “and talk to them about extending their season” in addition to finding ways to mitigate cancellations and diversions.
Also being considered is a more feasible car staging situation on the Woods Hole side, in order to prevent massive congestion near the ferry.
Additionally, Malkin acknowledged the issues with online reservations, with passengers often remaining in the dark about actual ferry availability. SSA’s current website, which select board chair Ryan Ruley deemed “a substantial miss,” is set to be updated.
Malkin touched on being in contact with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s Climate Action Task Force in order to determine best practices moving forward in regard to climate change– related water rise, including future improvements to the pier.