Bridge collapse a warning for local transportation


To the Editor:

On the heels of the major bridge collapse yesterday in my hometown, Baltimore, the fragility of our transport system became all too apparent. This point was driven home by my observations at the Vineyard Haven Steamship terminal today. The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse left military and commercial vessels stranded within the harbor waters beyond the bridge. And of course, the incoming boat traffic has to be diverted to other ports, an economic catastrophe for the region.

This same thing could play out on the Vineyard. The Oak Bluffs SSA terminal is closed, and there is only one slip open in Vineyard Haven. If this one goes down, good luck bringing residents, workers and cargo on or off the Island.

I would usually not worry too much about the boat service, as my trips on- and off-Island are intermittent. But Wednesday, March 27, there were cancellations due to mechanical failures, including our 9:30 boat. Three boats came and went while we sat in our cars hoping to board.

Ticket agents looked ready to cry as we all asked for information and pleaded our cases to the gods and goddesses of boarding on the pier. Like a Shakespearean actor onstage, a tall, bearded SSA employee stood before us and told us to lower our car windows and listen to him. Was this Mark Antony giving his famous speech? “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears?”

Unfortunately, the SSA does not offer even as much pleasure as a Shakespeare tragedy. Whatever happened to customer service? How about free lunch while we wait? I realize it is no doubt futile to complain, but as King Lear said, “Nothing will come of nothing.” So here is my complaint: Plain and simple, the SSA needs to realign its business practices and incentives to serve the Island. Neither the SSA nor anyone who works there will suffer any consequences for poor customer service and inadequate policies. But worst of all, for putting us all at risk with unreliable boats and inadequate slip capacity.

Toby Gordon

Oak Bluffs