Greater than a 12 months after the worth for ferry tickets doubled for some islands, reduction is in sight

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BELFAST, Maine — A brand new price system goals to make ticket costs extra inexpensive and honest for islanders and others who rely upon state ferries to move them to and from the mainland.

Islanders who got here to a Belfast listening to this week on the Maine State Ferry Service’s newest charge proposal had a message for state officers — the new proposal is a giant enchancment, but it surely’s nonetheless removed from good.

The brand new plan eliminates a controversial flat-rate construction and contains a lot of strategies that island residents shared this spring with Bruce Van Observe, the brand new commissioner for the Maine Division of Transportation.

Greater than a 12 months in the past, the division, which operates the state ferry service, applied the flat-rate construction that greater than doubled the worth of a ticket to and from Islesboro. At simply three miles from the mainland, Islesboro is the least distant of the six island communities served by state ferries. Islanders who had been offended over the the worth hike filed a lawsuit with the state, which led to transportation officers renewing the rate-setting course of.

“I believe there have been some useful modifications,” Islesboro Selectman Gabe Pendleton mentioned Monday at a public listening to on the College of Maine Hutchinson Middle. “Nonetheless, I stay involved concerning the prices outpacing the flexibility of island residents to afford ticket costs on the whole.”

Van Observe advised attendees he has loved visiting the islands to raised perceive islanders’ wants.

He says the state must generate sufficient income from ridership to pay for about half of the roughly $12 million annual working prices for the ferry service.

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“A definition of equity that’s universally held continues to be elusive,” he mentioned. “That doesn’t imply we’ll cease the wrestle.”

Underneath the present ticket construction, riders pay one worth: $11 for a roundtrip ticket and $30 for a passenger with a automotive. It’s the identical whether or not they’re taking a 20-minute ferry journey from Lincolnville to Isleboro, or a greater than two-hour journey from Rockland to Matinicus.

The brand new proposal (included under) is extra difficult and makes use of a mixture of seasonal charges and ranging charges based mostly on the place a passenger goes.

There’s additionally an choice to buy 5 commuter tickets for the worth of 4, so long as they’re used inside seven days.

Some who spoke on the public listening to mentioned they want the division to maintain tweaking the proposal, suggesting that the height season be decreased to 3 months and that officers permit islanders to purchase tickets in bulk earlier than the season modifications, amongst different concepts.

Islesboro resident John King mentioned he’s involved about the way in which ferry-service working prices have elevated by 50 p.c over the past decade.

“Until and till we get ahold of prices, I’m involved that the present proposal is merely a Band-aid measure,” he mentioned.

However Rick Lattimer, the North Haven city administrator, mentioned that he appreciates what Van Observe and others within the transportation division have tried to do.

“They’ve labored actually onerous and thoughtfully,” he mentioned.

Others indicated their misery that the method of fixing the issues with the ferry tickets has dragged on for thus lengthy. Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, identified the problem stays largely unresolved after greater than a 12 months, which she referred to as deeply irritating.

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“On the coronary heart of this situation is the misperception that our islands are someway separate from the remainder of Maine,” she mentioned. “Let me be clear — these points are usually not ‘island points,’ they’re Maine points.”

The Maine Division of Transportation will settle for feedback on the newest proposal till Sept. three, and a brand new ticket construction might be in place by Oct. 1.

BDN author Lauren Abbate contributed to this report.



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