Letter to the Editor

Thursday, November 24, 2016
By Transcript Staff

The Ferry, a nice idea but a luxury we cannot afford

Dear Editor

  With the ferry season at an end this is now the time to evaluate the feasibility of our Town owning a ferry. In reading one of the many articles in the paper where our Town Manager talks about the ferry and revenues raised I continue to shake my head at what a waste of money this has been. Back in late 2013 I asked for the ferry proposal and feasibility study for review. I provided feedback to Mr. McKenna and Mr. Domelowicz that I thought the feasibility study numbers were flawed and did not account for true costs of owning and maintaining a commercial vessel. I own and operate a marine business that employs commercial vessels and understand these costs.

In the September 8,  Transcript article Mr. McKenna stated that they have collected almost $38,000 in revenue since the service started. In a previous Transcript article,  he stated that the cost to operate the vessel is over $900 per day and that was on the old schedule without the run to Quincy. No doubt the cost to operate has gone up so how can he state that they are close to breaking even? May to August, 120 days at $900 per day. The numbers do not add up and never will.

There are multiple high speed ferries that go to Hull and Hingham with an established ridership and a much more difficult commute into the city. Those ferries still have to operate with State funding to be able to break even. Why do we think we can operate a ferry and get it to break even?

   The comment was made, a number of times, that we have a grant, free money, to build a ferry so we need to spend or someone else will get those funds. That free money came from Federal taxpayers of which most of us are. Part of the reason our country is so badly in debt is funding bad ideas like this one. From a professional perspective I do not think the boat is well built or well designed. We went into this with very little experience in building a vessel and I do not think there was the proper over sight. There are people in this Town with experience in owning and operating commercial vessels and to my knowledge none of them were asked for their opinion or assistance. As a taxpayer I am not happy about what I see.

From a commuter perspective the new schedule with Quincy added in is not attractive. Basically doubling the time of commute from 25 minutes to 50. My guess is this will drive away a portion of the few commuters that do use the ferry.

My understanding is that the town had to put up $200,000 to get the ferry going. That is money that could be going to far more important things in this Town. We should not continue to subsidize Mr. McKenna’s pet project.

I challenge the Town Council to review the numbers very closely when looking at the future of the ferry. There is a rumor that one of the captains is actually on the harbor master payroll instead of the ferry books. Again a nice idea but at what cost to the taxpayers? We should not look to fund the ferry another year when we have many more things in Town that are more important.

Fred Loomis

  • tom mcniff

    Editor,

    Mr. Loomis’ letter to the editor of Nov. 24, 2016 states concepts that have been ignored for months since the Valkyre vessel owned by the Town of Winthrop started service. Of particular note is Mr. Loomis’ mention of a figure of $200,000 taken from town tax revenues and applied to the ferry project. There are other mentions that such a figure is actually $300,000 and that was spread over two or three years (exactly how is unknown).

    Then there is the unexplained provision of a town owned vessel to the desires of the City of Quincy, which wants tested the feasibility of that city running its own ferry to the City of Boston. According to public reports, the use of the Winthrop’s boat is costing the City of Quincy nothing. Rather , supposedly the costs of the service to and from Quincy with varied destinations are paid by passengers associated with boardings to and from a park near the ex-Squantum NAS.

    Mr. Loomis flat out mentioned that this ferry project is Winthrop Town Manager “McKenna’s pet project”. It has to be somebody’s pet as there is very little information available on any board or committee or organization that is overseeing and making decisions that impact this vessel. If Mr. Loomis’ assertion about Mr. McKenna’s interest in the Valkyrie has merit, it seems very strange that the man hired to run the town should be given a job to play at operating a ferry service.

    A person who rides the vessel frequently estimated after the season ended that about 30 passengers per voyage would be a fair estimate of the Valkyre’s per trip loa. At $8 each ride, that would seem to add up to $240 per trip, with t he finances of Winthrop passengers not known. If Mr. McKenna is the chief executive of the Winthrop ferry service (with a Quincy side service), he owes it to the taxpayers of Winthrop to provide down and dirty details of the finances and near term future opertions of this vessel. And that definitely should include the City of Quincy runs and whether there are any p[lans to start charging that municipal government for its apparently free test of Boston boat service.

    It would also be nice if Mr. McKenna or some other knowledgeable town of Winthrop official would enlighten townsfolk about any plans to make that stripped down vessel may be sometime soon be equipped with refreshments and other means of making Valkyre voyages a bit more enjoyable.

    Thank you,

    Tom McNiff, Jr.
    Grandview Avenue

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