Proposed Fare Hike for Ferry Service 

Islanders are talking about a proposed rate hike for the Maine State Ferry Service. Several new fare structures are being considered to make up for lost revenue.”I’m just disgusted with the whole thing,” says Ann Waterman of North Haven.On Friday, the ferry service advisory board will discuss seven different fare increase proposals. Ferry Service Manager Jim MacLeod says they need to make up a 400 thousand dollar shortfall.”State statute says fares have to pay for 50 percent of our operating budget, so that really is where that rate increase is coming from,” MacLeod says.Fares have traditionally been based on where the traveler originates. Rides that start on islands are cheaper than those that start on the mainland. He says that’s one reason they’re short on money.”Over time people have kind of learned a way around the system. So 80 percent approximately of people buy their tickets on the island, which has caused an erosion of our revenue,” he says.He says an aging fleet and increasing costs are also to blame.For islanders already dealing with rising prices, they say any increase could make necessary trips too expensive to make.”If the prices go too high we’re not going to be able to come to Rockland that often,” says Waterman.”It’ll make it hard,” says Harold Duvall of Vinalhaven. “It’s hard enough as it is, fishing is not good, and the prices aren’t good.”The advisory board will narrow down the proposals Friday to the the best option, which they’ll then vote on. The new fare structure will be discussed at public hearings before any increases are made, but changes could be seen as soon as July first.”You’re going to destroy the town on these ferry increases,” says Charles Loring of North Haven. “And if we don’t have a town, we don’t have anything.”The advisory board meeting is open to the public and will be held 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Rockland Ferry Terminal.