Early fall traffic on Steamship Authority ferries has been robust this year, with Labor Day weekend bringing an end-of-summer spike in travelers, although still slightly short of last year’s holiday, according to a report from boat line treasurer-comptroller Mark Rozum Tuesday.

“Our passengers are right around 75 to 80 per cent,” Mr. Rozum told the boat line board of governors at their monthly meeting in a report on Labor Day weekend traffic. “The vehicles are pretty close to what we were carrying [over Labor Day weekend] last year.”

Advance vehicle reservations for the rest of September are at about 109 per cent of 2019, Mr. Rozum said, and October reservations are roughly the same as last year.

Through July, passenger traffic was down more than 40 per cent compared with 2019, SSA general manager Robert Davis told the board.

Auto trips were down more than 22 per cent for the first seven months of the year and truck traffic was down 19 per cent, Mr. Davis said.

Preliminary August numbers show vehicle revenues up about two per cent but foot traffic continuing to lag.

“Passengers continue to show softness; they were down about 25 per cent versus budget,” Mr. Rozum said.

People still have had to wait to cross on foot, because the boat line is limiting the number of passengers per trip due to Covid-19, Mr. Davis said.

“On weekends, we are consistently reaching passenger capacity,” he said. “You may not get on that first trip.”

Face-mask compliance, on board ferries and buses and at SSA continues to be a point of contention, Mr. Davis said, adding that his conversations with other ferry operators around the country indicate it's a national problem.

"I'm certainly getting a lot of concern from the parents of children who go to Falmouth Academy," board chair James Malkin said. "I'm getting a lot of concern from people who see other folks without masks. It's not a comfortable situation to be in ... Is there more we can do?"

Mr. Davis responded that as a public transportation agency, the boat line is legally unable to bar mask-resistant passengers, who are asked to ride on the outside decks of the ferries.

SSA general counsel Terence Kenneally added that captains and port managers have occasionally called the police in port towns, or asked on-duty state police officers riding the boats, to handle unmasked passengers who become unruly.

“We deal with obstinate people and ignorant people,” Mr. Kenneally said. “Masters of the vessels control their vessels . . . if there’s a disturbance, they do what they need to do to keep that vessel safe.”

Mr. Davis also said the boat line continues to encourage SSA staff to wear their own masks properly, noting that he sees terminal workers pulling theirs up when they spot him in their vicinity.

“Unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere,” he said.

In other business Tuesday, governors approved more than $1.7 million in contracts for work on SSA terminals, and nearly $700,000 for computer hardware, software and installation.

A $752,524 contract with Coastal Marine Construction of Canton will launch the second phase of repairs to the Oak Bluffs terminal pier, including replacing pilings and decking. The terminal opened late this year after delays in awarding a bid for the work forced the boat line to break the project into two phases. Work on the second phase is due to begin after the terminal closes for the season next month.

The SSA’s computer reservation system is set for a major hardware upgrade after governors approved a $689,621 contract with Continental Resources of Bedford. In January of this year the SSA website crashed when advance reservations opened for automobiles, causing several days of havoc.

Mr. Davis said the reservation system hardware dates to early 2013 and is reaching the end of its lifespan. The contract includes $364,647 for hardware, software and installation and $324,974 for a five-year maintenance plan.

Mr. Davis said he expects installation will be in place before the 2021 reservations opening.

The project is eligible for a state and federal grant that could reimburse 80 per cent of the equipment cost, he also said.

A change order of $956,023 was approved for BIA Studio of Boston, the architects for the Woods Hole terminal redesign. The terminal building design was changed last year after vocal public criticism from residents of the Vineyard and Falmouth.

Also Tuesday, boat line officials thanked retiring reservations bureau manager Gina Barboza for her nearly 46 years of service with the SSA, where she began as a part-time clerk.

“It’s going to be a sad day when Gina leaves here,” Mr. Davis said, before naming 20-year SSA employee Angela Campbell as Ms. Barboza’s replacement.

Mr. Davis also announced the promotion of another boat line veteran, Curt Van Riper, to the position of director of information technologies.

New hire Todd Falvey, who formerly worked for the national Department of Homeland Security, will take over as SSA director of security, replacing the retired Lawrence Ferreira.