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HomeNewsArchivesFERRIES PLAN TO HALT MOST TOWN-TO-TOWN RUNS

FERRIES PLAN TO HALT MOST TOWN-TO-TOWN RUNS

Nov. 2, 2001 – The two companies holding the government franchises for ferry service between St. Thomas and St. John want to drop most of their scheduled runs between Cruz Bay and Charlotte Amalie temporarily — and reportedly will do so sometime next week.
Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures made their case before the Public Services Commission, which regulates the service, on Friday. However, the PSC lacked a quorum, which would normally mean that the body could not act on a petition before it. Nonetheless, PSC attorney Fred Watts said, the commission members present provisionally approved the curtailment of service, and he said he anticipated that it would take effect in the middle of the coming week.
The companies asked to eliminate the 9:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 2:25 p.m. runs from Cruz Bay and the 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. runs from Charlotte Amalie. They intend to keep the commuter runs — the 7:15 a.m. from Cruz Bay and the 5:30 p.m. from Charlotte Amalie — in place.
Service between Cruz Bay and Red Hook would not be affected.
On the downtown-to-downtown runs, "Business was slow. It started with the bombing," Transportation Services accounting clerk Jacqué Meade said, referring to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
She said that fact coupled with the normally lower ridership during the slow season has meant that the trips have lost money for the companies this fall. "Sometimes there was only one or two people on the ferry," she said.
Keithley Joseph, PSC executive director, said the ferry companies indicated in their request that they would expect to resume full service by Dec. 1
Joseph said ferry company officials stated that ridership was down by 30 to 40 percent. He also said he expects the Senate to consider the governor's latest nominees to serve on the commission next week, and if they are approved, the commission will then be able to muster a quorum.
The PSC by law has seven voting members; six are currently sitting but the terms of all six have expired. Five nominations submitted by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull have been approved by the Rules Committee and are awaiting full Senate action.
The commission has created controversy previously by taking action when a quorum was not present and then ratifying that action at a subsequent meeting when there was a quorum. On May 8, when three members were present, a vote was taken at the direction of the chair, Walter Challenger, to hire the mainland firm of AUS Consultants to conduct rate investigations of local utilities. In June, the commission, with a quorum in place, voted again to hire the company.
Kathy Demar, who manages vacation villas on St. John, said the 11:15 a.m. run from Cruz Bay has been popular with her departing guests who have afternoon planes to catch. Guests flying into St. Thomas often arrive on St. John on the 4 p.m. ferry from Charlotte Amalie.
If the cutbacks in service are approved, St. John vacationers would have the option of taking a ferry out of or into Red Hook, which would entail utilizing land transportation between Red Hook and Charlotte Amalie or the airport.
No one could be reached at Varlack Ventures for comment.

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Nov. 2, 2001 - The two companies holding the government franchises for ferry service between St. Thomas and St. John want to drop most of their scheduled runs between Cruz Bay and Charlotte Amalie temporarily -- and reportedly will do so sometime next week.
Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures made their case before the Public Services Commission, which regulates the service, on Friday. However, the PSC lacked a quorum, which would normally mean that the body could not act on a petition before it. Nonetheless, PSC attorney Fred Watts said, the commission members present provisionally approved the curtailment of service, and he said he anticipated that it would take effect in the middle of the coming week.
The companies asked to eliminate the 9:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 2:25 p.m. runs from Cruz Bay and the 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. runs from Charlotte Amalie. They intend to keep the commuter runs -- the 7:15 a.m. from Cruz Bay and the 5:30 p.m. from Charlotte Amalie -- in place.
Service between Cruz Bay and Red Hook would not be affected.
On the downtown-to-downtown runs, "Business was slow. It started with the bombing," Transportation Services accounting clerk Jacqué Meade said, referring to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
She said that fact coupled with the normally lower ridership during the slow season has meant that the trips have lost money for the companies this fall. "Sometimes there was only one or two people on the ferry," she said.
Keithley Joseph, PSC executive director, said the ferry companies indicated in their request that they would expect to resume full service by Dec. 1
Joseph said ferry company officials stated that ridership was down by 30 to 40 percent. He also said he expects the Senate to consider the governor's latest nominees to serve on the commission next week, and if they are approved, the commission will then be able to muster a quorum.
The PSC by law has seven voting members; six are currently sitting but the terms of all six have expired. Five nominations submitted by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull have been approved by the Rules Committee and are awaiting full Senate action.
The commission has created controversy previously by taking action when a quorum was not present and then ratifying that action at a subsequent meeting when there was a quorum. On May 8, when three members were present, a vote was taken at the direction of the chair, Walter Challenger, to hire the mainland firm of AUS Consultants to conduct rate investigations of local utilities. In June, the commission, with a quorum in place, voted again to hire the company.
Kathy Demar, who manages vacation villas on St. John, said the 11:15 a.m. run from Cruz Bay has been popular with her departing guests who have afternoon planes to catch. Guests flying into St. Thomas often arrive on St. John on the 4 p.m. ferry from Charlotte Amalie.
If the cutbacks in service are approved, St. John vacationers would have the option of taking a ferry out of or into Red Hook, which would entail utilizing land transportation between Red Hook and Charlotte Amalie or the airport.
No one could be reached at Varlack Ventures for comment.