After an often confusing hour of discussion Monday, Public Services Commission members voted to reduce the number of ferry runs between St. Thomas and St. John until mid-December, but did not say when a couple of the reduced schedules would go into effect.
In August, the PSC halved the number of runs between downtown St. Thomas and St. John until the beginning of November, but the normal schedule still has not resumed because of a few mechanical problems with the boats. So, it appeared Monday that commission members decided to keep things running as they are until Dec. 13, when a revised schedule will go in effect until July 4, 2010.
The public is supposed to be notified 10 days in advance of all rate and schedule changes, which would put the implementation date in this case somewhere around Dec. 8. The commission’s intent was to have the new schedule in place immediately, so members will be meeting Tuesday with PSC attorneys to work out all the legal kinks, PSC chairman Joseph Boschulte said later.
"Nothing’s really changing here," he explained. "They were supposed to go back to six runs at the beginning of November, but they were not able to do that, so they sent out a notice letting everyone know that it would still be three instead of six round trips. We’re just maintaining that until Dec. 13."
After Dec. 13, there will be some changes in the departure times, with boats leaving Cruz Bay at 8:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 3:35 p.m., and leaving downtown St. Thomas at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Boschulte said the mid-December-to-August trial period would give the PSC enough passenger data to determine whether the downtown run should be permanently reduced, or possibly eliminated. For years, the ferry companies have said the downtown route is not profitable and should be streamlined to reflect low passenger numbers in the off-season.
Meanwhile, a new nighttime schedule for runs between Red Hook and Cruz Bay was also approved and set to run until Dec. 13. Boats will be leaving from Red Hook at 10 and 12 p.m., and from Cruz Bay at 9 and 11 p.m.
PSC members present during Monday’s meeting were Boschulte, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Verne C. David, M. Thomas Jackson, Elsie V. Thomas-Trotman and ex-officio member Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve.
Commission member Sirri Hamad was absent.
In an earlier posting of this story the Source cited incorrect times for the new nighttime ferry schedule between Red Hook and Cruz Bay. The times listed are now correct.