SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 3, 2012

Salem may dump ferry operator

SALEM — The city is looking for a new ferry operator after learning that the current company, Water Transportation Alternatives of Quincy, does not expect to run a full schedule this year.

Mayor Kim Driscoll notified city councilors over the weekend of the development. It comes just a few months after WTA had to cut back the fall schedule due to high fuel costs and low ridership.

Salem owns a 149-passenger ferry that runs between the Blaney Street Landing and Boston. It is a popular summer service, making about a half-dozen round trips a day. It drew 89,000 riders in 2010.

Driscoll wrote to councilors Saturday following a series of meetings with Bill Walker, the head of WTA.

"Based on my last discussion with Bill," the mayor wrote, "it seems more likely than not that he will not be able to operate the ferry on a full schedule next season.

"With that in mind, the city will be putting out a request for proposals seeking alternative operators for next season. Water Transportation Alternatives is under contract to provide services through November 2012, but if they are unable to provide a full ferry schedule, I think it's in the city's best interest to identify and pursue alternative operators."

WTA had notified the city earlier that it was unlikely to continue its early morning commuter run. Last month, a group of commuters met with Salem officials to encourage them to continue the service, which drew about 40 riders. Many were critical of WTA and the city for failing to promote and advertise the commuter ride.

Driscoll said she had a series of meetings with the ferry operator this winter about ways to cut fuel costs and increase ridership. Among topics discussed was the possibility of entering into a cooperative fuel purchasing agreement with the T.

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