City to Test Waters for Ferry Service

By Steve Urbon
Standard-Times Senior Correspondent

NEW BEDFORD — Twice-a-day ferry service between State Pier and Woods Hole starts Monday, a four-month trial run for a possible permanent relinking of the two ports after more than four decades.
“The market is not yet determined,” said Kristen Decas, executive director of the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission. “This is part pilot, part assessment.”
Everyone involved, however, points out that the marine sciences labs and schools in the two ports are the primary target of the service, to eliminate the tedious drive across the Cape Cod Canal and around Buzzards Bay.
The HDC, Office of Economic Development and New Bedford Fast Ferry will try to learn who might use this route, who might benefit from it, how often it would run, and how much it should cost, she said.
The experiment is being financed by a $75,000 grant from the state’s Executive Office of Transportation, which is being matched with $25,000 of local money.
New England Fast Ferry, which operates between New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard, was the sole bidder, Ms. Decas said. The Steamship Authority didn’t respond, nor did others. “We tried to engage the Salem fast ferry and Boston Harbor Tours, but they didn’t bite,” she said.
Starting Monday, at no charge for the first two weeks, the Woods Hole ferry will leave State Pier at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in Woods Hole at 8:45 a.m. The return trip leaves at 8:55 a.m. and arrives back in the city at 9:25 a.m.
In the evening, the ferry will leave for Woods Hole at 7 p.m., and begin the return trip at 7:40 p.m. for an 8:10 p.m. arrival. From mid-September to mid-December, the morning trips will be 15 minutes earlier, and the evening trips two hours earlier, according to the preliminary schedule.
After the two-week free period, the ferry will cost $5 each way, said Economic Development Director Matthew Morrissey.
Each trip will be accompanied by a survey team, which will collect information from passengers about their interest in the ferry and their particular needs, Ms. Decas said. Meanwhile, the HDC will advertise the ferry service heavily at UMass and elsewhere there might be interest.
That’s especially true of the School of Marine Sciences and Technology, which has many connections with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s labs in Woods Hole.
Dr. Steven Cadrin, director of the Cooperative Marine Education Research Program at UMass, said the ferry ought to be ideal for that effort.
The ferry would be especially helpful for UMass students who live on the Cape, he said.
“Outside of the profession of marine sciences the interest would be shopping,” he said. “There aren’t as many opportunities as here, and I think a day trip would be attractive” for shoppers.
“We think New Bedford has a significant amount to offer Falmouth’s population,” Mr. Morrissey said. That includes “affordable housing for young scientists and other related amenities and activities.”
There hasn’t been regular ferry service from New Bedford to Woods Hole since the Steamship Authority in 1961 discontinued the route serviced by the much-unloved M/V Nantucket, a fuel-guzzling, unreliable white elephant that many believed was put on the New Bedford route to produce red ink — and a reason to shut down the route after a decade of legal wrangling.
Contact Steve Urbon at
August 08, 2007

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