Journeying by Ferry

Journies by ferryboat in New England demonstrate the difference between private and the semi-public administration, and the difference in the user experience. Family-owned Hyline Cruises runs year-round high speed ferries to Nantucket from Hyannis and makes a profit. The Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket Steamship authority also runs ferries, but they lose money. Taking a lot of luggage with me, my trip to Nantucket was relatively painless–dropped off the bags at the luggage trolley, parked within shouting distance, and right on time, at 6 pm I was seated in the comfy saloon drinking a cold beer watching the Hyannis harbor slip away.

A few days later I needed to travel to Martha’s vineyard on the Steamship. Drove to a remote parking lot, then lugged the three heavy bags while running to try to catch a shuttle bus. Then got in line after the seven-mile bus trip to the dock. The small boat was loading car after truck after car, and a crowd gathered, waiting to board in a punishing wind. The boat should have left at 1:30 pm, but by 1:45 the many hands on deck were still loading cars. Finally we were allowed to board, and I was lucky enough to grab a seat in the dining area, where there was no bar, no carpet and not enough seats.

The difference is that it felt that the people who run the Hyline ferry want my business more. They said hello, and thank you, just like they do when you deplane at the airport and they left precisely on time. The Steamship, saddled with its pension plan debt and the prospect of running empty boats in January, just keeps plugging along. Oh yes, and when you get back to the parking lot, bring lots of cash. They don’t take credit cards, and about 1 out of 4 people who try to pay have to drive over to the ATM to withdraw cash to pay for their parking. ugh.