July 21 & 28, 2009 Transportation Meeting Notes

Meeting Notes
Transportation Committee Meeting, -LCI- Library
July 21 & 28, 2009

Attendance: Barbara Meyers, Skip Stevens, Katy Morse Fernald, Phil Whitney, Sally Rowan, Ron Axelrod
The purpose of the meeting was to determine what the Committee would present to the Board of Selectmen for their August 4, 2009 meeting. The July 29, 2009 “Recommendations for Ferry Service” are the result of this meeting and is herewith the Meeting Notes:

BOARD OF SELECTMEN TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
DANIEL S. LIEF R. AXELROD, R. BEAL, C. BROOKS
RICHARD F. BEAL, CHAIRMAN B. DOWLING, K. FERNALD, S. ROWAN,
SALLY A.B. ROWAN J. ALLEY, D. LIEF, E.MERRILL
B. MEYERS, R. STEVENS, P. WHITNEY

TOWN CLERK / TREASURER FACILITIES SUPERVISOR
DENISE Mc CORMICK ERIC DYER

To: TCI Board of Selectmen
Fr: TCI Transportation Committee
Re: Recommendations for Ferry Service

July 29, 2009

Attached herewith are the committee’s recommendations for ferry service between the Town of Cranberry Isles and Mount Desert Island. The recommendations are divided into four categories: scheduling, safety, service and implementation of changes.

In developing the recommendations, we considered the following.

• The results of community hearings on Great Cranberry and Islesford in June 2008 and July 2009.
• The results of a survey of year-round town residents in the summer of 2008.
• Consultations with transportation specialists on ferry services in various coastal locations.
• Consultations with operators of four local passenger services.
• Consultations on passenger safety with marine transportation specialists.
• Consultation with the town’s legal counsel.
• Consultation with officials of the Town of Mt. Desert.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SCHEDULE OF TRIPS BETWEEN TCI AND MDI

• The schedule should include boats leaving TCI early enough and leaving MDI late enough to accommodate school students and people commuting to mainland jobs. It should also include morning and afternoon boats on weekends, Sunday as well as Saturday. This should be a year-round service.
• Winter service during hours of darkness should be implemented. Because safety is of greater concern in the winter, short-term improvements to safety should be made as soon as possible.
• Reliability. The schedule should be maintained as published so that passengers can coordinate ferry trips with off-island business such as jobs, appointments and the like.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SAFETY

• Improvements to the safety of the ferry service are essential and should be independent of the implementation of any other changes. In other words, safety concerns must be addressed whether or not other changes to service are made. The committee cannot over-emphasize the importance of these improvements.
• Paramount among safety concerns is the competence and experience of boat crews in adverse operating conditions. The danger of winter operation is a subject that was raised frequently in committee meetings and by people attending the town hearings. The committee recommends that measures be taken to ensure that operation in adverse conditions be by competent crews.
• Details of specific safety improvements are given in the Safety Report, attached. The committee recommends that all the changes recommended in the report be made, beginning immediately with the short-term recommendations.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SERVICE OPERATION

• Comprehensive Service. The most efficient and economical ferry service would be under one operator serving both Northeast Harbor (year-round), and Southwest Harbor (summer service). This service would include the schedule requirements listed above, namely, a reliable schedule including the commuter trips and the Sunday service, year-round. The committee recommends that the town seek an operator who would be willing to provide this comprehensive service.
• Commuter Service. The early and late boats, year-round, constitute the commuter service. This service should be provided whether or not the Comprehensive Service is established.
• A head tax of twenty-two cents ($.22) should be levied on all passengers landed at TCI by any operator running a scheduled ferry service.
• Preferred Operator. The town should have a formal agreement, or contract, with a ferry service operator willing to provide the Comprehensive Service recommended here. Under such an agreement, this operator should be exempt from any head tax levied by the town for passenger landings at TCI, and be eligible for such subsidies as are determined by the BOS and the town.
• In the event that no operator for the Comprehensive Service is found, the selectmen should find an operator to provide the early and late “commuter service” year-round. This operator would be designated “preferred” and enter an agreement with the town as described under “Preferred Operator,” above.
• Ferry Subsidy. See below, under “Recommendations for Implementation of Service.”
• Environmental Concerns. The ferry service should be “green.” At this point the committee has not determined whether sustainability standards or guidelines exist for marine transportation, but we recommend that the subject be researched and standards be established.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF SERVICE

• The head tax on passenger landings is important to the success of an expanded ferry service. The Board of Selectmen should determine immediately who has the authority to levy such a tax, whether the BOS by itself, or only with the approval of the voters.
• Take immediate steps to find an operator for the commuter service, as described above.
• Time-line.
o August, 2009.
 Review of recommendations at the August selectmen’s meeting.
 Establish head tax on passenger landings.
 Identify operator for commuter service.
 Seek operator for the comprehensive service, SWH and NEH, beginning with B&B.
 Determine source(s) of subsidy and begin applying these.
 Begin safety improvements.
o September 1, 2009.
 Begin early and late service.
 Continue safety improvements.
o Town Meeting, 2010. Report and review changes to date and determine course of further change.
• Trial periods. Assuming changes are initiated in September of 2009, the six month period between then and the 2010 town meeting serves as an initial trial period. The committee recommends that the service be reviewed again after a two-year period, at the town meeting in 2012.
• Existing Service Provider. The first step in changing the ferry service should be negotiating with the current year-round provider, Beal and Bunker. Negotiations with other potential providers should follow if B&B is unwilling to provide the requested service.
• The role of the Harbor Committee, Municipal Advisory Council and Facilities Supervisor. Changes and improvements that involve the TCI harbors at Islesford, Great Cranberry and Manset should be made under the direction of the TCI Harbor Committee and MAC, with the town facilities supervisor acting as executive director to implement changes.
• Subsidies. The committee recommends that the selectmen investigate the following potential sources of support for a ferry service, and secure one or more of them, to be applied as soon as possible.
o Barge ramp fees collected by the town.
o A head tax on passenger landings.
o Funds in the existing school budget for transportation.
o State and federal funding through Maine DOT.
• Landing Privileges in NEH. Ensure that any operator identified as “preferred” by TCI and/or any operator providing the commuter service, would be guaranteed landing privileges at Northeast Harbor marina.
• Evaluation. Any operator under agreement with the town to provide a specific service (see above under “Preferred Operator”) should submit periodic reports, these to include such information as schedule performance, and steps taken to ensure safety. Additionally, the town should periodically survey ferry users to determine passenger satisfaction with the service.