North Ferry Company looking to raise rates

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | The North Ferry transports folks from Greenport to Shelter Island.
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | The North Ferry transports folks from Greenport to Shelter Island.

Facing rising costs and a continuing drop in ridership, North Ferry Company has asked the Suffolk County Legislature to approve a 7.8 percent rate hike, its first since June 2004.

Under the company’s proposal, same day round-trip tickets for non-Shelter Island residents would cost $15, up 15.3 percent from $13. The non-discounted one-way fare would go up $1 to $10, an 11 percent increase.

For island residents, the price of a book of 10 round-trip tickets would rise from $48 to $52, 8.3 percent, or 20 cents per trip.

The price of a five-day round-trip pass would rise from $22 to $26, up 18 percent, or 40 cents a trip.

For non-residents, the price of a book of 10 same day round-trip tickets would rise $7, from $72 to $79. The price of a book of 10 one-way tickets would increase by $5, from $57 to $62.

That would be the same $2.60-a-trip rate proposed for a book of 10 resident round-trip tickets. Six-day commuter passes would no longer be offered.

The Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation (HPOC), which owns the ferry, announced the rate proposal on Monday.

Also under the rate proposal, the separate higher fare for SUVs would be eliminated, and the truck rate would apply to vehicles 22 feet long instead of 20. Modified vehicles — trucks and vans with extensions — would no longer qualify for discounted rates.

No change is proposed in the rates for foot passengers, which are $1.50 for residents who buy in the ferry office and $2 for others. The walk-on rate last went up in 2006 to $2 for everyone, but the county reduced it for residents in 2007 after a local outcry.

Because of higher costs and slumping ridership, the company believes “that we will not be able to fund ourselves through next spring, even if we have a good summer,” according to a prepared statement.

“There is no way we can control the volume of our traffic. It has declined significantly over the past six months, amplifying the impact of rising fuel prices,” the statement reads.

Ferry manager Bridg Hunt said the company was running in the red for the third year in a row, with the deficit this year currently at about $250,000. The company closed the gap in the past with operational cash flow and a loan from HPOC.

The ferry blames rising fuel costs, climbing health insurance premiums for employees and a drop in ridership in all categories, including a 10 percent drop in truck traffic compared to last year.

Ferry rates in Suffolk County are regulated by the county Legislature. In addition to a public hearing before the Legislature in Hauppauge, the rate hike will be subject to a local hearing before the Shelter Island Ferry Advisory Committee, expected before mid-summer. If approved, the new rate schedule would take effect in the fall.

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