SALEM — The Salem ferry carried 43,000 passengers to and from Boston this year, a dramatic drop from past years. It was 30,000 fewer than last year and not even half the total from 2010.
Despite the low ridership, Boston Harbor Cruises plans to expand the number of round trips next year, add more service in the early evenings, keep the rates the same and offer a $5 discount for Salem residents.
“We put together a 2013 ferry schedule we feel is a little bit more aggressive and, most certainly, more convenient for people traveling in both directions ...” said Alison Nolan, general manager of Boston Harbor Cruises, which took over the Salem ferry this year.
Nolan said she was not surprised by this year’s figures.
The ferry got off to a late start when the former operator, Water Transportation Alternatives of Quincy, said it was losing money and wanted to cut back on daily service, prompting Mayor Kim Driscoll to seek a new partner to operate the city-owned vessel.
Boston Harbor Cruises came on board with little time to get ready and had to deal with unexpected engine repairs right at the start of the season.
In addition, it had to cut the season short in October due to Hurricane Sandy.
While it agreed to Driscoll’s demand for daily service, BHC reduced the number of round trips in 2012 and raised the rates.
The 149-passenger Nathaniel Bowditch offers a 55-minute ride from the Blaney Street landing in Salem to Long Wharf in Boston. A round-trip adult ticket is $27. The ferry operates from Memorial Day through Halloween.
“We wanted to put together a schedule we knew we could absolutely commit to,” Nolan said. “We understand the schedule we ran in 2012 was not as aggressive as the ferry was running in the past and did not give as many options, particularly to people from the North Shore going into Boston ...