The Ferry, a nice idea but a luxury we cannot afford
With the ferry season at an end this is now the time to evaluate the feasibility of our Town owning a ferry. In reading one of the many articles in the paper where our Town Manager talks about the ferry and revenues raised I continue to shake my head at what a waste of money this has been. Back in late 2013 I asked for the ferry proposal and feasibility study for review. I provided feedback to Mr. McKenna and Mr. Domelowicz that I thought the feasibility study numbers were flawed and did not account for true costs of owning and maintaining a commercial vessel. I own and operate a marine business that employs commercial vessels and understand these costs.
In the September 8, Transcript article Mr. McKenna stated that they have collected almost $38,000 in revenue since the service started. In a previous Transcript article, he stated that the cost to operate the vessel is over $900 per day and that was on the old schedule without the run to Quincy. No doubt the cost to operate has gone up so how can he state that they are close to breaking even? May to August, 120 days at $900 per day. The numbers do not add up and never will.
There are multiple high speed ferries that go to Hull and Hingham with an established ridership and a much more difficult commute into the city. Those ferries still have to operate with State funding to be able to break even. Why do we think we can operate a ferry and get it to break even?
The comment was made, a number of times, that we have a grant, free money, to build a ferry so we need to spend or someone else will get those funds. That free money came from Federal taxpayers of which most of us are. Part of the reason our country is so badly in debt is funding bad ideas like this one. From a professional perspective I do not think the boat is well built or well designed. We went into this with very little experience in building a vessel and I do not think there was the proper over sight. There are people in this Town with experience in owning and operating commercial vessels and to my knowledge none of them were asked for their opinion or assistance. As a taxpayer I am not happy about what I see.
From a commuter perspective the new schedule with Quincy added in is not attractive. Basically doubling the time of commute from 25 minutes to 50. My guess is this will drive away a portion of the few commuters that do use the ferry.
My understanding is that the town had to put up $200,000 to get the ferry going. That is money that could be going to far more important things in this Town. We should not continue to subsidize Mr. McKenna’s pet project.
I challenge the Town Council to review the numbers very closely when looking at the future of the ferry. There is a rumor that one of the captains is actually on the harbor master payroll instead of the ferry books. Again a nice idea but at what cost to the taxpayers? We should not look to fund the ferry another year when we have many more things in Town that are more important.