Mid-February traffic numbers from the Steamship Authority indicate that fewer Islanders are traveling than in winters past, while off-Island travel to the Vineyard has seen an increase this off-season.

SSA traffic numbers from the fall also show that the Island saw a much smaller end-of-season exodus in September and October than in 2019, hinting that the Island may have had a slightly larger population this winter, among other demographic shifts.

According to traffic data provided to the Gazette by SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll, the Island has seen a 3,305-vehicle, or 23.5 per cent, year-to-date increase in regular-rate travel.

During the same time, excursion fare travel, which is only available to Island residents with names listed on Vineyard street lists and cars registered to Island addresses, decreased by 4,620 vehicles, or 21.3 per cent.

“Fewer year-round residents are traveling in this time frame, that’s for sure,” Mr. Driscoll said. “And more people are coming.”

Data provided by Mr. Driscoll runs through the week ending on Feb. 21, which includes February vacation week for most public schools in the state. The numbers do not cover Martha’s Vineyard’s February vacation week, which ran from Feb. 22 through Feb. 26. Mr. Driscoll said those numbers would be provided when it became available.

But up until that point, the Island saw a marked shift in travel patterns. Whereas in 2020 14,041 regular-rate vehicles and 21,685 excursion-rate vehicles traveled on the Vineyard route, the same period in 2021 saw 17,364 regular-rate vehicles and 17,065 excursion-rate vehicles.

In total, automobile traffic is down 3.7 per cent year-to-date on the Island, with the increase in regular rate travel essentially offset by the decrease in excursion rate travel.

Passenger traffic continues to show sharp decreases from past years. Approximately 40,000 fewer people have traveled on the SSA Vineyard route as of Feb. 21, 2021 than during those months in 2020, representing a 22.4 per cent decrease, data shows.

The traffic numbers largely match the SSA’s budgeted prediction for travel in 2021, with the boat line projecting an approximately 25 per cent drop in passenger traffic from pre-pandemic numbers, while automobile traffic is expected to stay on par with past years.

Meanwhile, directional data from the months of September and October show that the Vineyard saw a significantly smaller number of people leave the Island during those months in 2020 than they did pre-pandemic in 2019.

In September of 2019, the Island had 14,796 more passengers leave the Island than come on its Vineyard routes. But in 2020, that number went down to 7,885, representing a 6,910 decrease in net travel off-Island passenger traffic during the month of September in 2020 over 2019. In October, the Island saw a 960-passenger decrease in net-travel off-Island from 2019.

In total, 18,411 more people left the Island than came during the months of September and October in 2019. That number was only 10,241 in 2020, representing an approximately 9,000-passenger, or 55 per cent decrease, in the net off-Island travel in 2020 over 2019, which is generally considered the height of the normal off-season exodus.

Directional travel numbers were not immediately available for other months of the off-season.

While the numbers do not necessarily prove that the Island experienced a population boom this winter — as those who stayed during the early fall very well could have left in later months — Mr. Driscoll did confirm that there was a significant decrease in the net-travel difference during months that often see far more people leave the Island than come, indicating more people stayed than usual.

“It’s definitely a different pattern through this year than it would have been to this time last year,” Mr. Driscoll said.