As a regular passenger on the Steamship Authority for over 30 years I continue to be confounded and disappointed by the atrociously poor level of service, exorbitant costs, poor state of the ships, and general lack of management and customer service.

I am in a good position to make these comments because I have been a frequent user of many other ferry services over the past few years including North Carolina Ferry System, Washington State Ferries, British Columbia Ferries, Isle of Wight Red Funnel Ferry System, Greek Island Ferry System, Long Island Ferries. As I write this I am on board a Stena Line ferry en route from Fishguard, Wales to Rosslare, Ireland and once again I am struck by the enormous differences between SSA and other ferry services. I am sitting in a comfortable, lovely, quiet, well appointed, lounge ($14 upgrade) free wine and snacks with polite white glove table service in an ultra clean well serviced ship on a three-and-a-half-hour crossing with my car for a comparatively similar cost that I pay for the 45-minute trip from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole.

In all categories the SSA falls very short compared to every other ferry I have ever used.

Why can’t we, in one of the most affluent areas of the wealthiest country on the planet do better? Traveling aboard an SSA ship is like riding a floating school bus, noisy, dirty, uncomfortable, slow, poorly managed, under serviced. It is time we eliminated half the grumpy, poorly trained, unnecessary staff, cleaned up our ships, updated the technology and infrastructure and set reasonable prices for this essential service.

I am embarrassed when I invite guests from other islands and other parts of the world who have firsthand knowledge of functional ferry lines elsewhere to come to the Vineyard using our ferry service.

As a country, as a state, as an island we can do better, we must do better.

Michael Ball