Councilors Hear About Town Ferry Service

The town’s ferry service is something that draws mixed reaction when discussed so at Tuesday’s council meeting a presentation was given about the town ferry service and discussion ensued.

Going back in history the town sought to construct the pier, marina and terminal building between 2003 and 2005. Both were finished by 2012 at a cost of $3,429,993 funded through a PWED grant, the Seaport Advisory Council and the Executive Office of Transportation.

The presentation was prepared by Assistant Town Manager Joe Domelowicz, community development and project manager Tanji Cifuni and intern Ashlyn Howard.

Cifuni said the cost to build and improve the ferry was $1,073,660 with the town paying $234,985. The agreement to purchase the vessel also included the provision that the boat be returned back to the state if the town stops operating the ferry. In the beginning, Boston Harbor Crusies ran a pilot program. The final cost to build the ferry was $981,252 with the town paying $196,250. Another $28,000 was also paid by the town for electronics and navigation equipment.

“We’d like to get through fiscal year 2019 without a contribution from the town,” Domelowicz said, adding they have increased their request from MassDOT. They also hope to work on a regional ferry plan.

“Since building the boat, Winthrop has spent $575,000 from the general fund on service operation,” Cifuni explained, adding that this will be the third season in operation. Ridership has grown each year to over 11,000 passengers.

The cost of a one-way ticket is $8.50 for adults, seniors are $6.50 and students are $6.

“In Winthrop there are probably 1,600 commuters who go downtown (Boston),” said Alice Brown, director of water transportation for Boston Harbor Now. She also shared that if you are a resident of Salem you pay the lowest price, if you are a North Shore resident you can pay a commuter rail rate around $9. There is also a tourism rate of $25 each way.

One woman listening said a major marketing push is needed for the ferry. Others suggested that perhaps someone else should operate the boat for the town. The city of Salem is the only other community in the region with a ferry service and Boston Harbor Cruises operates it for the city.

“We plan on opening and running in April,” said Town Manager Terence Delehanty.

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