St. John Tradewinds News

PSC Approves Ferry Rate Hike

Be sure to take an extra dollar for the ride to Red Hook this week.

At a Thursday, October 29, V.I. Public Services Commission meeting, the body voted unanimously to increase the fares for most runs between St. Thomas and St. John — but the hike was not as high as the PSC had originally approved.

Following a rate investigation for the two franchise ferry boat operators — Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services — the public utility regulating body voted back in April to increase most fares between Cruz Bay and Red Hook by $2 each way.

At that vote, the PSC also approved a decrease in the fare for the Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie run, from $10 to $8.

On the heels of PSC’s announcement in April, V.I. Unity Day Group members filed a petition to reconsider the rate hike. The group cited inaccuracies in the ferry companies’ financial records and expense accounts.

Now it seems there was some merit to those claims.

PSC hearing examiner Attorney Jennifer Jones said the consultants found errors in previously determined net investments — which determine the companies’ rates of return — and unjustified expenses, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.

“What that has done is knock a dollar off of the rates,” Jones was quoted in the V.I. Daily News.

The newly approved fares, which will go into effect on Sunday, November 8, will increase travel costs for most ferry passengers. The only fare that will not change is the child fare to Red Hook which will remain $1.

The biggest Red Hook  jump is for a one-way ticket for adults, which will be $6 instead of $5. Under the new fee structure, senior citizens will pay 25 cents more each way, and commuter, bulk, student and teacher ticket fees will increase 50 cents each way.

The downtown ferry run from Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie — which has not been running for several weeks and will not run “until further notice,” according to the PSC — will cost $12, instead of $10.

Defending the new rate structure, PSC Chairman Joseph Boschulte said the decision was fair.

“In the face of ‘adverse currents’ PSC maintains that the commission will continue to make strides to do what is fair and just in making decisions for the citizens of the USVI,” said Boschulte in a prepared statement from PSC. “The decision was made in order to ensure that we continue to have a St. Thomas/St. John Ferryboat Service.”

VI Unity Day Group president Lorelei Monsanto deemed the PSC’s decision a victory.

“We won,” said Monsanto. “We consider it a victory. It’s not exactly what we wanted, but at least the PSC is now checking the financial records and not just taking anyone’s word for it.”

“The VI Unity Day Group is encouraged by this outcome,” Monsanto said.