‘Demonstration’ service could begin later this month

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
By Joe Domelowicz

The day that many in Winthrop had doubted would ever come, may soon be here.

According to Winthrop Harbormaster Charles “Chucky” Famolare, Boston Harbor Cruises has won a public bidding process to provide a commuter ferry demonstration service for the town, beginning as early as late July and running for about three-months.

During this trial period, town officials will use the demonstration service to make decisions about the size of the boat that would be needed for a permanent service and other logistical concerns.

“I was am very excited by the news that we had a successful bid to provide the ferry demonstration service,” said Famolare this week. “I was not personally involved in the opening of the bids, but there was a successful bid and now the proposal is being reviewed by the MBTA and the federal government. They have to approve it, but that shouldn’t be a problem, because they helped put the package together.

According to Famolare, a federal grant will be used to pay for fifty percent of the operator’s cost, while the town analyzes ridership levels, commute times and demand, to determine how best to offer a permanent commuter boat service from the town pier in future seasons.

Although Famolare was not able to offer specifics about the proposed demonstration contract at this point, he was able to offer some specifics about the temporary service that will be offered.

Boston Harbor Cruises operator Rick Nolan, has proposed using a 149 passenger vessel, which would make three daily inbound trips and three daily outbound trips at a cost of $6 per person each way. There would be no cost for parking at the landing and the commuter trip is expected to take approximately 25 minutes one way.

There will be no cost to the town of Winthrop for the demonstration service.

Congressman Edward Markey was responsible for obtaining the federal grant that will allow the town to make informed decisions about how best to go about offering ferry service to Winthrop and North Shore area commuters.

Earlier attempts to attract a ferry boat operator to offer commuter service to Boston and back, failed to attract acceptable bids, because operators have been leery of taking on the risk associated with operating a commuter boat when logistical issues, such as the size of the boat that would be needed and what the average ridership levels would be, were unavailable. Through the three-month demonstration, town officials, and boat operators, will be able to gauge actual interest in commuter boat service from Winthrop and thus they hope they’ll be able to formulate a plan for offering either permanent seasonal or year-round service.

“I have been getting asked by lots of people over the past few years, ‘when are you going to bring ferry service to the town?” said Famolare. “This is the chance for those people who wanted to see ferry service come to town. If folks want this to become a permanent service, they have to come out and support it, by taking the boat into work and back again, so the town can make the right decisions about how to offer a permanent service.”

Famolare added that he was impressed by Nolan’s excitement about the demonstration project.

“He’s been doing this a long time and he has expressed to me that given what we have already built down at the landing, he thinks it has a lot of potential to be successful,” said Famolare.

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