Steamship Authority governors this week announced plans for fare increases on the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket routes in order to compensate for rising fuel costs and other expenses in next year’s budget.
At the monthly meeting of the boat line governors Tuesday in Nantucket, a preliminary look at next year’s operating budget showed a budget shortfall of $1.5 million, according to a meeting summary. To make up the additional revenue, the boat line is recommending raising automobile fares on the Vineyard route by $1 each way, resulting in a $2 increase on round-trip excursion fares and a similar increase on one-way freight fares for vehicles shorter than 20 feet. The SSA is also recommending raising the cost of year-round annual parking permits at Falmouth and Woods Hole parking lots by $25.
The proposed increases would create $487,000 in revenue, the governors said.
Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson said that fuel costs are variable, and that they predicted an increase of $820,000, or 8.8 per cent over this year, in fuel costs.
Additionally, “We have a number of maintenance projects and repairs that had been scheduled next year on vessels and terminals,” Mr. Lamson said.
According to the summary, there is an expected 16.8 per cent increase in maintenance expenses on the budget. Dry docks are scheduled for the ferry Island Home, the ferry Nantucket, the freight vessels Katama and Gay Head, and engine overhauls are slated for four vessels as well. The budget for terminal repairs is expected to increase by 28 per cent, with the largest scheduled item being dolphin fender repairs in Nantucket. Health care expenses will also go up.
“Taking all of that into consideration,” Mr. Lamson said, “it’s not too bad.” He said the rate increase will allow for a bit of a cushion for net operating income for next year, and will allow the boat line to pay off debt.
According to a preliminary look at the 2013 operating budget by treasurer/comptroller Bob Davis, the authority’s operating budget next year will be $83.1 million, about a four per cent increase from the most recent estimate of the 2012 budget.
More extreme rate increases are proposed for the Nantucket route, with fare hikes of $5 each way for automobiles. The cost of a year-round parking permit in Hyannis would go up by a proposed $50, and the Nantucket increases would generate an additional $989,000 in revenue for the boat line.
The Steamship Authority last increased fares in January 2011, when a one-way passenger fare increased from $7 to $7.50, and excursion rates thus increased as well. The extended load rate increased from $10 to $12.50, and the rate for bicycles, surfboards, and windsurfers increased from $3 to $4.
The budget, including the fare increases, will be voted on at the Steamship Authority governors’ Oct. 23 meeting, which will take place on the Vineyard at the Oak Bluffs public library.
In other business this week, the board approved proposed changes to the Steamship Authority’s emergency transportation policy, and approved summer and fall 2013 operating schedules.
The board also approved SeaStreak’s request to suspend high-speed ferry services between New Bedford and the Island from Nov. 1 through April 30.