After a year of frustration from island residents, the Maine Department of Transportation will eliminate the flat-rate ticket structure for ferries. Instead, beginning Oct. 1, fares will vary based on destinations and seasons.
The Maine State Ferry Service, which is operated by the Maine Department of Transportation, serves the islands of Vinalhaven, North Haven, Islesboro, Frenchoro, Matinicus and Swan’s Island.
Under the current flat-rate structure, passengers pay one price regardless of their destination: $11 for a roundtrip ticket and $30 for a person with a car.
Under the new structure going into effect next week, here’s what’s happening:
October to May (“off-peak” season)
Islesboro: $8 for adults; $4 for minors (under 18); $22 for a vehicle with a driver; $20, reservation rate.
Frenchboro, North Haven, Swan’s Island, Vinalhaven: $12.50 for adults; $6.25 for minors; $31 for a vehicle with a driver; $12, reservation rate.
June to September (peak summer months)
Islesboro, Frenchboro, Islesboro, North Haven, Swan’s Island, Vinalhaven: Add $5 to passenger tickets; $7.50 to vehicle tickets.
Fares to Mantinicus, which is located farthest from the mainland, would have a year-round rate of $25 for adult passengers, $12.50 for minor passengers and $90 for a vehicle with a driver and reservation.
The new rate structure increases the age of a minor passenger from 12 to 17. Commuters will also be allowed to buy five passenger tickets for the price of four.
Details of the new fares were released last week to Maine State Ferry Advisory Board members, which is made up of island representatives, according to Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Merrill.
In May 2018, MDOT launched a flat-rate ticket structure that more than doubled the cost of traveling to and from Islesboro, which is located only 3 miles from the mainland.
Islesboro residents expressed concern about the rate-setting process and filed a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Transportation.
The finalized rate structure is the result of a rulemaking process that was renewed in November 2018 in response to the lawsuit.
As a result of the administration change in January, new Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note took over the department earlier this year and released a temporary proposal to keep the rulemaking process going.
Van Note met with island residents this spring to hear their thoughts and concerns on the rate structure. Aspects of the finalized rate structure include some suggestions made by islanders, including commuter rates.
At a public hearing on the rates last month, island residents felt the new proposal was better than the flat rate system but still worried about ticket affordability.
While Van Note has expressed empathy with residents of Islesboro for the rate setting process that caused their ticket prices to double, he has maintained that in order to avoid a budget shortfall ticket prices have to increase.
“We feel this new rate structure strikes a reasonable balance considering all of the various – and sometimes competing – concerns we heard from those who rely on the Maine State Ferry Service. I want to thank everyone involved – particularly the members of the island communities – for their engagement, thoughtfulness, and hospitality throughout this process,” Van Note said in a statement Monday.