SSA’s consultants meet Vineyard residents

The gathering of community input continues online as well. 

Raftelis executive vice president Julia Novak leading a public information gathering session for the Steamship Authority at the Oak Bluffs Public Library. — Eunki Seonwoo

Participants of a recent public input session hosted by the Steamship Authority called for — among several other requests — electrifying the ferry fleet and providing more vehicle reservations to year-round Islanders.

Consultants from Raftelis, the firm hired by the Steamship Authority (SSA) for the development of its strategic plan, carried out the forum at the Oak Bluffs library on Tuesday. 

SSA spokesperson Sean Driscoll told The Times in a text message this is the first strategic plan the authority has done.

On Tuesday, participants were divided into several thematic groups to discuss and write down how the SSA might be able achieve desired strategic outcomes. There were chances for participants to work on different themes. These themes, dubbed “strategic outcomes,” included ensuring financial sustainability, providing safe and reliable service, investing in employees, engaging with communities, and enhancing, maintaining, and greening the SSA’s infrastructure and assets. 

The comments and suggestions jotted down by participants in the library were not uniform, but there were some requests that came up more frequently than others. These included improving services and staff training, better engagement and implementation of community feedback (particularly year-round Vineyarders’ needs), more specificity in the vision statement, the necessity to implement greener technology, and a need to re-evaluate SSA funding and budgeting. 

Participants also voiced their opinions about the SSA during the session, such as a need to electrify ferries. A comment that participants in the library applauded was a call for increased ferry access for Islanders. 

“The number of reservations available to year-round Islanders needs to be expanded,” participant Kevin Loughlin said, suggesting “residents-only ferries,” or more services with the newly purchased ferries. “Several people … couldn’t get on or off the Island in a timely manner.”

On top of the strategic outcome statements, a vision for the SSA was also put forward: “The Steamship Authority is a respected and vital part of our communities, committed to the highest levels of safety and reliability and to the stewardship of the Cape, Islands, and our waterways.” 

Raftelis executive vice president Julia Novak led the public session. 

“This work was developed in a meeting we had with the Port Council and the [SSA board] on May 2,” Novak said, adding the goal of the public session was to gather people’s various perspectives, not to make a consensus. 

Prior to the workshop, some people jabbed at the consultants and SSA over the process of gathering public input, such as difficulties getting through the online survey, the public session in Oak Bluffs being held at a time when most workers could not attend (another session was scheduled at the Tisbury Emergency Services Facility from 4:30 to 6 pm on Tuesday), and accessibility for people up-Island versus down-Island.

Two more public sessions with the consultants will be held after the ones on the Vineyard. These are on Wednesday, May 24, from 5 pm to 6:30 pm at the Steamship Authority Hyannis Terminal, and on Monday, June 12, from 2 to 4 pm on Nantucket, at an undecided location. 

According to Novak, the collected information will go back to the board to be reviewed during an August meeting. Afterward, Raftelis will work with SSA staff on the strategic plan. The final version is expected to be adopted during a joint meeting of the board and council in December. 

For those who cannot make it to the in-person meetings, the online survey will be available until Friday, June 30.


  1. It strikes me that the SSA has heard from a number of us year-round Islanders in more than one setting, and has not demonstrably responded to suggestions and/or criticisms. Let’s hope this evokes a different outcome, as the criticisms/requests voiced were representative of most year-round residents, I’m willing to bet.

    • I have some bad news for you, the SSA does not exist to serve the desires of ‘Year Around Islanders’ , it exists to serve the needs of all who want to come and go to the islands.
      You may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of SSA customers live off Island.
      The financial responsibility for the SSA is on the State not the islands.
      Whose Authority is it?

      • My senior discount card says “Woods Hole Martha’s vineyard and Nantucket steamship authority”. They also refer to themselves as “the lifeline to the islands” Their mission statement “is to operate a safe, efficient, and reliable transportation system for the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket”
        Note the word “FOR”
        Also, in April of 2020 when the SSA was suffering severe financial losses due to the pandemic, they asked the state for some financial relief.
        The response from Governor Baker:
        “So, first of all, the Steamship Authority is basically not an entity that we have jurisdiction over, for all intents and purposes,” Baker said at his daily press conference Monday.”
        So ok– Who’s authority is it ? It doesn’t seem to be the state’s.

        I would hope that they would listen to feedback from islanders.

        • Follow the money, the SSA bonds are backed by the full faith of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the islands signature is no where to be seen.
          Baker is one of my favorite politicians.
          He is smart enough to not be seen bailing out a boat line that serves the rich and famous.
          It doesn’t go over well in depressed neighborhoods like Dorchester.
          Well run operations cater to their customer base.
          A small percentage of the SSA’s customer base are “Year Around Island Residents”
          The SSA listens far more to its Islander customer base than the majority of its customer base.

          Have you been here long enough to remember the bumper stickers “Give me a break, I live here year around.”
          A lot of people took scissors to them to say what should be said.
          Never forget that Islanders are very special people.
          They deserve to get on the boats before any of those horrid off-Islanders.

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