Fast ferry pilot tests New Bedford – Woods Hole Connection Around Marine Science and Technology

Ferry links New Bedford, Woods Hole
By Steve Urbon
New Bedford Standard-Times
NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Scott W. Lang called it a “sleigh ride,” an over-in-a-blink transit from State Pier to Woods Hole to show local media the wonders of a watery shortcut to the “transportation hub” of Cape Cod.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun this morning,” he told the 75 guests, media representatives and crew who rode free on Monday morning as part of an introductory promotion.
New Bedford officials launched the trial service on Aug. 13 to see if there’s enough interest to resurrect the ferry route permanently.
Boston-based New England Fast Ferry Co. was the sole bidder for the twice-a-day service, which will run for four months.
Transit officials point 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.
Several commuters on board Monday bypassed the highway ride to Wareham.
Others, hearing about the free tickets, brought their families for an excursion to the Cape on a perfect summer morning. For the first two weeks, the trips are free but starting next week the trip will cost $7 each way.
“We came for the fun of it,” said Mike Powell of Dartmouth, who was accompanied by his daughter, Sarah, and grandchildren Natalie and Justin.
Originally from Illinois, Powell said he hadn’t yet explored the area, so he grabbed the chance. Cape explorers can catch cabs in Woods Hole or take public transportation to Hyannis, where the ferries run to Nantucket.
Other passengers Monday, such as UMass-Dartmouth economics professor Daniel Georgianna, stepped off the gangplank in Woods Hole to experience how much easier it will be to do business there, where he holds a consulting contract with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“I try to come out here twice a week, but I can’t, especially in the summer,” he said. The drive is simply too taxing.
The fast ferry, by contrast, whisks passengers from New Bedford across to Woods Hole in less time than anything but a helicopter might take.
The speed is the selling point of the New England Fast Ferry, which is diverting one of its two boats twice a day from Martha’s Vineyard for the run out of New Bedford. As the summer tourism season winds down, the Woods Hole route will have its own ferry until mid-December when the four-month experiment ends. After that city officials will evaluate the program.
A $75,000 matching grant from the state Executive Office of Transportation will fund the trial ferry service. Survey specialists are being used during the test period to interview passengers to see what they like about the service and what they would change.
Thomas Lanagan of Mattapoisett, a student at the University of Vermont who also works at the Alvin group, of ocean submersibles fame, in Woods Hole, lamented “all the gas going back and forth” around Buzzards Bay by land, and was happy with the ferry. But he would like to see one change.
“I get off of work at four or five in the afternoon,” he said. But the evening run back to New Bedford isn’t until after 7 p.m.
That could change, however, said Kristin Decas, executive director of the Harbor Development Commission.
When the summer tourism season slows down, the ferry service may be able to adjust the trip times and may even add a midday round-trip if there’s a demand, she said.
Contact Steve Urbon at surbon@s-t.com.
August 23, 2007

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