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New ferry rates will take effect in May

Tuesday, April 24th 2018

New ferry rates will take effect in May

The Maine Department of Transportation plans to implement a new flat rate ticket pricing structure at the Maine State Ferry Service on May 21, standardizing ferry prices across the entire system.

A key component of the new rate structure is an overall decrease of more than 10% to the truck/freight rates to help keep the costs to Maine businesses supplying goods and services to and from the islands competitive.

“Moving to a flat rate ticket structure will allow the MSFS to utilize advanced technology and achieve other critical operational goals to greatly improve customer service,” said MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “It will also provide all Maine residents, businesses and visitors greater flexibility, treating all users equitably by eliminating the antiquated and geographically discriminatory rate pricing that currently differs from island to island and island to mainland.”

The decision to implement a new flat rate ticket structure comes after more than a year of public meetings and input on how to raise the revenue needed to cover the ferry service’s projected 2020 operating budget of $11 million. State law requires that the MSFS collect at least 50% of its operating cost from user fees, and the remaining portion is subsidized by residents of Maine through the Highway Fund Budget.

The Ferry Service had first proposed a rate structure last winter that would have charged Maine residents less than out-of-staters. But islanders complained that would unfairly penalize long-time summer residents. The soon-to-be-replaced system drastically discounts the rate for tickets purchased on the islands over tickets purchased on the mainland. And the rates differ depending on the island and the distance of the ferry run.

The new flat-rate has angered Islesboro residents who will now pay twice as much for passenger and vehicle round-trip tickets. Islesboro’s ferry run takes about 20 minutes and is the shortest route in the system. But the new rates will lower the price of mainland-bought ticket to Swans, North Haven, Matinicus, and Vinalhaven.

MSFS Manager Mark Higgins defended the plan, saying the new flat rate ticket structure will create a straightforward pricing system that will simplify operations. “Once this pricing structure is in place,” he said, “we will look to implement new technologies to better serve our customers, particularly systems that will improve customer service and can provide the potential for on-line sales and the data collection vitally needed for enhanced forecasting and long-term planning.”

Tickets sold in 2012 will expire when the new rate structure goes into effect. MSFS will allow 90 days from the effective date for certain tickets to be traded in, and others will have a non-cash upgrade value that will not expire. Detailed notices about ticket expirations will be posted for customers.

The MSFS, a division of the MaineDOT, serves the island communities of Vinalhaven, North Haven, Islesboro, Swans Island, Frenchboro and Matinicus. In 2017, the MSFS served almost 700,000 passengers and 190,000 vehicles.

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