Legislature approves rate hike for South Ferry; residents to pay $6 round trip, non-residents $17

PETER BOODY PHOTO | A South Ferry boat in the race between Shelter Island and North Haven on the South Fork.

It was smooth sailing for South Ferry Tuesday afternoon as the Suffolk County Legislature voted 17-0 to allow an average 12.2-percent rate increase.

A 10-round trip book for residents will cost $60 instead of $52. For non-residents, a round-trip ticket will rise from $15 to $17.

The increase, which the ferry company intends to implement as soon as possible, is intended to stop operating losses that have plagued the company in the past two years and will provide $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements, according to the company’s president, Cliff Clark.

“I am so happy” to be able to concentrate on needs that have been on hold in the past two years, he commented in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. In addition to the infrastructure changes, employees haven’t had raises in two years, Mr. Clark said. “We’re going to fix that,” he promised.

Before the vote, Mr. Clark expressed optimism, saying that at both a June 4 Shelter Island Ferry Advisory Committee meeting and a June 5 county hearing in Hauppauge, there had been no opposition. Even South Ferry regulars have been “gracious” about the need to raise rates for the first time since 2008, he said.

The legislature’s Budget Review Office gave the request unqualified support, calling it “reasonable, especially given rising costs for fuel, personnel and health insurance expenses, attrition in ridership and the need for capital improvements to the vessels and landings.”

The BRO supported the rate structure’s continuing discounts for Island residents and workers. ,which are supported by the full rates paid by commercial traffic and non-residents.