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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPSC Should Halt Impostion of 50-Cent Increase

PSC Should Halt Impostion of 50-Cent Increase

Dear Source:
Up to $20 per vehicle barge fees, a 50-cent passenger surcharge, and doubling of parking rates? Why is the Port Authority attempting to balance its budget on the backs of St. John commuters?
I have called on the V.I. Port Authority and the Public Services Commission to halt the imposition of a 50-cent per passenger fee for using the new Red Hook Terminal. This fee comes just over a year after the cost of a one way trip between St. John and St. Thomas was increased from $3 to $5. This new fee will make the trip $5.50 one way. It might not seem like a lot of money for the tourist or occasional traveler, but these increases are posing a real hardship on those that must make regular trips between St. Thomas and St. John.
The increase in fees is not only a financial hardship, but a true inconvenience to passengers who are already burdened with long lines and overcrowded ferries during peak commute hours. How will the fee be collected? How frustrating will this be to the harried commuter? How much time will this add to an often arduous commute?
Neither the Port Authority nor the PSC are serving the public well in this regard. The PSC argues that Port Authority fees are not within their jurisdiction, but passenger ferries are considered regulated utilities. While the ferry companies themselves are not imposing these new fees, passengers must pay them in order to board the boat. How is this not a de facto rate increase? No matter who is collecting the money, the bottomline is that passengers are paying more. It is a rate increase by default. I have asked for legal opinion as to the PSC's jurisdiction and sent a formal request to the Commission in hopes that they will review their authority in regard to this matter.
The PSC is not well known for being especially consumer friendly and, in turn, the Port Authority is not well known for its fiscal prudence. I think it is high time someone explain to the Port Authority Board that an increase in fees in an organization's budget is to compliment efficiency in service and improved product and not to simply compensate for poor management and planning. Many improvements are necessary to St. John's ports in particular to include Enighed Pond Dock, where no facilities have been constructed since its opening.
The Port Authority has argued that Red Hook parking fees should match what is now being charged at Cyril E. King Airport. Parking at the airport and parking to catch a ferry are not necessarily comparable experiences, yet Red Hook parking fees have been doubled to mirror airport parking rates.
Over the past several years St. John commuters have experienced an increase in ferry boat fares, a two dollar per piece of luggage charge, in addition to the porter fees. To compound these increases, the Virgin Islands Port Authority imposed an assortment of “marine tariffs” of up to $20 for vehicles utilizing barge service. With St. John residents already experiencing the highest cost of living in the territory and now looking at a potential increase in property taxes, we can no longer sit quietly and allow the Port Authority, in particular, and the Government in general, to use the residents of St. John as a cash cow for their lack of prudent management.
Is there a concerted effort to make it more costly to travel to and from St. John? How long before the increased fees discourage even tourists from making the trip?
I am requesting that the Port Authority open its books and provide a full accounting of what it has collected in terms of fees for vehicles traveling on the car ferries. The people also deserve detailed information as to how long the Port Authority anticipates collecting 50 cents per passenger and exactly how these revenues will be utilized. Are there plans to increase this tariff to a dollar or more? Further, the PSC must take aggressive steps to protect consumers and continually review rates. The PSC granted the 2006 increase in passenger fares in order to compensate for rising fuel prices. Has this been reviewed since that time? Can commuters expect any form of relief?
The new Red Hook terminal is impressive, but how much and how long are we expected to pay for it?
Sen.-at-Large Susan Wesselhoft
Virgin Islands Legislature

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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Dear Source:
Up to $20 per vehicle barge fees, a 50-cent passenger surcharge, and doubling of parking rates? Why is the Port Authority attempting to balance its budget on the backs of St. John commuters?
I have called on the V.I. Port Authority and the Public Services Commission to halt the imposition of a 50-cent per passenger fee for using the new Red Hook Terminal. This fee comes just over a year after the cost of a one way trip between St. John and St. Thomas was increased from $3 to $5. This new fee will make the trip $5.50 one way. It might not seem like a lot of money for the tourist or occasional traveler, but these increases are posing a real hardship on those that must make regular trips between St. Thomas and St. John.
The increase in fees is not only a financial hardship, but a true inconvenience to passengers who are already burdened with long lines and overcrowded ferries during peak commute hours. How will the fee be collected? How frustrating will this be to the harried commuter? How much time will this add to an often arduous commute?
Neither the Port Authority nor the PSC are serving the public well in this regard. The PSC argues that Port Authority fees are not within their jurisdiction, but passenger ferries are considered regulated utilities. While the ferry companies themselves are not imposing these new fees, passengers must pay them in order to board the boat. How is this not a de facto rate increase? No matter who is collecting the money, the bottomline is that passengers are paying more. It is a rate increase by default. I have asked for legal opinion as to the PSC's jurisdiction and sent a formal request to the Commission in hopes that they will review their authority in regard to this matter.
The PSC is not well known for being especially consumer friendly and, in turn, the Port Authority is not well known for its fiscal prudence. I think it is high time someone explain to the Port Authority Board that an increase in fees in an organization's budget is to compliment efficiency in service and improved product and not to simply compensate for poor management and planning. Many improvements are necessary to St. John's ports in particular to include Enighed Pond Dock, where no facilities have been constructed since its opening.
The Port Authority has argued that Red Hook parking fees should match what is now being charged at Cyril E. King Airport. Parking at the airport and parking to catch a ferry are not necessarily comparable experiences, yet Red Hook parking fees have been doubled to mirror airport parking rates.
Over the past several years St. John commuters have experienced an increase in ferry boat fares, a two dollar per piece of luggage charge, in addition to the porter fees. To compound these increases, the Virgin Islands Port Authority imposed an assortment of “marine tariffs” of up to $20 for vehicles utilizing barge service. With St. John residents already experiencing the highest cost of living in the territory and now looking at a potential increase in property taxes, we can no longer sit quietly and allow the Port Authority, in particular, and the Government in general, to use the residents of St. John as a cash cow for their lack of prudent management.
Is there a concerted effort to make it more costly to travel to and from St. John? How long before the increased fees discourage even tourists from making the trip?
I am requesting that the Port Authority open its books and provide a full accounting of what it has collected in terms of fees for vehicles traveling on the car ferries. The people also deserve detailed information as to how long the Port Authority anticipates collecting 50 cents per passenger and exactly how these revenues will be utilized. Are there plans to increase this tariff to a dollar or more? Further, the PSC must take aggressive steps to protect consumers and continually review rates. The PSC granted the 2006 increase in passenger fares in order to compensate for rising fuel prices. Has this been reviewed since that time? Can commuters expect any form of relief?
The new Red Hook terminal is impressive, but how much and how long are we expected to pay for it?
Sen.-at-Large Susan Wesselhoft
Virgin Islands Legislature

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.