SALEM — Ticket prices on the Salem ferry, which opens the 2014 season tomorrow, are going up this year — but not for Salem residents.
Under a deal worked out between Mayor Kim Driscoll and ferry operator Boston Harbor Cruises, Salem residents will pay about two-thirds of the going rate this season.
An adult, round-trip ticket from the Blaney Street landing to Long Wharf in Boston is increasing by $2 — from $27 to $29.
The same ticket will cost Salem residents $16.75.
“We think there should be some benefit to living in a tourism-based community,” Driscoll said.
The lower fee is subsidized by the city through the rental agreement it has with the ferry operator for use of The Landing at the Salem Ferry, an outdoor watering hole at Blaney Street, according to Driscoll.
The 149-passenger Nathaniel Bowditch, which takes about 55 minutes to get to Boston, carried nearly 67,000 passengers last year. That was a big increase for Boston Harbor Cruises from the previous year, but still far off the ridership figures of past years.
While it expects to increase ridership this year, even at those numbers Boston Harbor Cruises is optimistic about the future of the Salem ferry, which is only one part of its large ferry operation out of Boston.
“We feel that in 2014, the Salem ferry is going to be a viable, self-sustaining service,” said Alison Nolan, Boston Harbor Cruises general manager.
A major reason for Nolan’s optimism is the increased business from Boston tourists taking day-trips to Salem.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be the visitors and traffic out of Boston that will sort of pay the day,” she said.
The 2014 season opens Thursday and runs through Halloween with daily round-trips to Boston.
Boston Harbor Cruises is keeping the 7 a.m. commuter run, despite its relatively low ridership. The ferry carried an average of 40 to 50 commuters last year, according to Nolan.