Steamship Authority makes no significant changes to 2023 schedules despite public pressure

The Steamship Authority Board Tuesday approved its 2023 summer and fall operating schedules, essentially making no significant changes from this year.

Despite a petition with 160 signatures from Falmouth residents, as well as a public hearing hosted by the Authority, a controversial early morning freight service remains unchanged.

The 5:30 a.m. freight service from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard — deemed an essential service by the Authority — will continue to run next summer.

Freight trucks load onto a Steamship Authority ferry from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard. The ferry line's board voted Sept. 27, 2022, to keep its 5:30 a.m. run to the island despite concerns voiced by some Woods Hole residents.
Freight trucks load onto a Steamship Authority ferry from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard. The ferry line's board voted Sept. 27, 2022, to keep its 5:30 a.m. run to the island despite concerns voiced by some Woods Hole residents.

Falmouth residents have complained about the early morning freight service, arguing that among other things big trucks headed to the ferry affects public health and safety, while Martha’s Vineyard officials, such as the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, say the service is essential.

James Malkin, the Martha’s Vineyard representative on the board, said the Martha’s Vineyard Select Board, police chiefs, and hospital, have said the 5:30 a.m. freight service is necessary.

“Should their position change, then I’m happy to change my position, but I have to respond to my constituents,” said Malkin.

Related: Falmouth residents express outrage over inaction, Steamship Authority schedule

Peter Jeffrey, Falmouth’s representative on the board, said  the conflicting wishes regarding the ferry schedule go deeper than just a Steamship issue, and have to do with a lack of infrastructure on Martha’s Vineyard, its waste disposal and a lack of enforcement by police in Falmouth.

“Unfortunately, it ends up with us having to have a 5:30 a.m. ferry,” said Jeffrey.

On May 31, the Authority received the petition from Falmouth residents, asking the Authority to eliminate early morning freight service. Neighbors say the early morning truck traffic through Falmouth generates too much traffic and noise.

Following the money: Brian Serpone, Levee Breaks transferred $4.5 million before filing bankruptcy

At a June 8 hearing called in response to the petition, many Falmouth residents attended virtually to voice their concerns. Many were frustrated by what they say is the Authority’s lack of response to their concerns. Falmouth residents have made similar requests for several years.

In its report about the 2023 schedules, the Authority pointed to a letter from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital officials who wrote that the hospital depends on the early morning service for food, linen and medical supplies, and that those needs were made more critical by the pandemic.

Climate change: Rising seas, shrinking coasts: Take an augmented reality tour of damage caused by warming temperatures

“To assume this daily need can simply be moved to a later ferry is impractical especially “in season” when ferry schedules fill quickly,” the hospital officials wrote.

Other key notes in the report involved late-night ferry service for Martha’s Vineyard Hospital workers and a lack of proposals for off-Cape freight service for Martha’s Vineyard.

A petition, which was started by Martha's Vineyard restaurant owner and received over 600 signatures, asked the Authority to create a late-night ferry service between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard that would allow hospitality workers to commute back and forth. The petition states the housing shortage on the Vineyard escalates the effort on the part of hotels and restaurants to house their staff, and that a late night-commuter service could alleviate this problem.

Related: Steamship Authority's new vessels named M/V Aquinnah and M/V Monomoy

In its report, the Authority said a late-night ferry is not economically feasible.

In April, the Steamship Authority posted a Request for Proposals, or RFPs, for an off-Cape freight service to Martha’s Vineyard. The agency advertised the proposal locally and nationally for four months, but did not receive any bids by its Aug. 2 deadline.

Contact Asad Jung at Follow him on Twitter: @asadjungcct.

Stay connected with the Cape. Download our free app 

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Steamship Authority: Early morning freight schedule unchanged for 2023