$6 mil generated already in SSA summer reservations

Summer reservations for the Steamship Authority's Vineyard route went live Wednesday. —MV Times

The Steamship Authority kicked off the opening for summer reservations on the Martha’s Vineyard route on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and so far it’s been relatively smooth sailing — compared at least with earlier rollouts of Steamship reservations. 

The opening began at 8 am on Wednesday, and while some customers complained about the long wait time — which was over an hour at times — the reservation system saw few issues. 

Others commended the SSA, saying the reservation process went smoothly. 

According to a Wednesday afternoon press release, the authority had processed 23,442 vehicle reservation transactions representing over $6.3 million in revenue by 3:45 pm. 

The SSA made 24,609 transactions and 24,508 transactions throughout the entire day in 2023 and 2022 respectively. 

At its peak a little before 8:40 am, the reservation system had an average of over 21,300 active sessions per minute, although the release states this number is higher than the actual number of people, since some individuals used multiple devices in an attempt to access the website. The longest wait time being around 2 hours and 15 minutes at around 10:15 am. 

The Steamship rolled out the Nantucket route reservations last week, also with fewer issues compared with previous years. 

Still, customers then did complain online about the long wait times. Steamship officials say the peak average wait time was around 2 hours and 20 minutes. “Wait times of more than an hour were fairly common due to the high demand,” SSA communications director Sean Driscoll said. 

Some customers also complained about not being able to make reservations past May, but this was due to a combination of a lag in the system and user error, according to Driscoll. Some customers were not selecting their route before choosing their dates, and the Vineyard route hasn’t opened yet.

Prior to the Vineyard summer reservations opening, the Steamship issued a statement saying they were prepared for the day. 

“Based on the system’s performance during Nantucket’s general opening, I feel confident in proceeding with the scheduled opening for Martha’s Vineyard reservations,” SSA general manager Robert B. Davis is quoted in a release last week. “I’m thankful to our IT staff and our external vendors for their diligence in ensuring today’s reservation opening for Nantucket was a success. Although delaying the general openings was unfortunate, we ultimately were able to provide a better experience for our customers.”

According to a press release, around 7,800 automobile reservation transactions and $4.2 million in revenue were made by 3 pm on the Nantucket opening day. The SSA had completed 9,153 reservations and 9,499 reservations by the end of the first days in 2023 and 2022, respectively. 

The release states the SSA managed the number of users on the website through a virtual waiting room to ensure the system operated at an “optimal level.” At its peak shortly before 9 am, the waiting room had an average of more than 10,000 active sessions per minute.

The SSA had delayed rolling out its summer reservation days for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard after experiencing technical issues with the Headstart reservation. An internal investigation of the SSA’s systems followed before the new dates were released a couple of weeks later. 

Some Vineyard representatives to the SSA expressed frustrations during a recent meeting on how reservations had gone before the Nantucket reservations went live, calling for more robust resources allocated toward technology.

The reservation period has gone more smoothly than last year, when the SSA experienced several issues with its website on the general opening days for both routes. 


  1. I would not refer to 2-hour waits as “opening smoothly.”

    That aside, these queues for weekend summer reservations are absurdly inefficient. Obviously, if that many people want something, it’s a scarce good and you can raise the fare, and (as a nonprofit) reduce other fares, like for full-time residents or off-peak travel. This benefits everyone. People don’t have to wait forever in line, scarce tickets are more plentiful and people who are price-sensitive can get a lower off-peak price.

    Nor is this a novel concept. Theaters and airlines have been using it for years.

    • What is the justification for discounting full-time residents?
      The SSA should be run like Spirt or Jet Blue?
      Their level of customer satisfaction?

      • The SSA is a non-profit.
        The bondholders hold nothing but paper.
        The bondholders are for profit.
        When you put money in (lend) a bank you do it for profit.
        When you borrow money to buy a house the bank lends you money, for a profit.
        That is how money works.
        Do you want the SSA to raise it’s rates so that it will have enough money on hand when it comes tome to replace a vessel, or add another vessel, as needed?

        If the SSA operates on a no borrowing basis where should the SSA park it’s unneeded funds, lend it out, for a profit?

  2. What would alleviate the mad rush for ferry reservations would be the ability to make reservations upon signed rental agreement. Let’s say I rent a house for a week in August but sign the rental agreement in January, why can’t I make my ferry reservation in January? Why make people wait to make a ferry reservation? The SSA is creating an unnecessary problem by restricting access to an arbitrary date. It’s kind of like manipulating a stock so it makes a run.

    • I just made a reservation for the second week in August. There was no discussion of a rental agreement?

      What is the justification for giving people with signed rental agreement preference?
      Does it have to be a full week? Is a weekend ok? If you charge your guests a dollar a day should they get preference?

      “Reservation for the third week of August $998 house $1200 extra!”

      If the SSA were private there be no “preference”.

      • My thought on showing a signed rental agreement would to prevent a secondary market for ferry reservations. Kind of like concert tickets. But I see your point. But you haven’t answered my question as why can’t you make your reservations when you know when you are coming. The opening date just floods the system and created problems. The thought process is from the days of mail in reservations and labor needs. Technology or shall I say adequate technology eleviates that.

  3. It didn’t run smoothly for me. I was unable to get to SSA website to see if the boats were running and no one answered at the terminal, only a recording with no info on day of sailing.

  4. How about the $270 (?!??) after spending 2 hours on 2 computers to make three reservations. ($270 each) We are semi-residents

  5. I logged on the SSA website at 0800:02. Two seconds after the sight was supposed to open for reservations. I realize SSA stated numbers in the queue would be assigned randomly, however, I was stunned to find I was number 14221! I had the website all teed up, as soon as the computer clicked to 0800, I hit it. How can that happen? By the time I was able to select my times, the ones I preferred were all gone! I don’t know what the secret is, hopefully someone more knowledgeable than me will clue me in.

  6. When it looked like there was the possibility of some craziness online for the general opening this year our landlord kindly took the pressure off by getting us tickets. I have been renting on the island for more than 40 years and when booking for high season I rarely get exactly what I want initially but the waitlist has served me well and I have never been shut out. Hopefully the waitlist will work for the people who had difficulty this year. Holiday weekends are particularly tough and I make a point of avoiding them.

  7. Thought it went smoothly. Logged in at 8, done in 90 minutes.
    If the system is such that an “opening day” for all garners 20k log-ins within minutes of each other, there’ll be a wait…
    why not consider an “open to book at 8am, 6 months before desired departure date” process.
    Holiday weekend reservations will still be challenging, but at least most of the seasonal/vacation bookings would be spread out over months, rather than hours.
    Just a thought.

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