Public Service Regulators Question Bid To Raise Ferry Ticket Prices for Visitors

ST. THOMAS — Commissioners with the Public Services Commission have questions about a request by ferry service operators to change ticket prices for visitors.
The subject came up at a Dec. 16 PSC meeting on St. Thomas with a request for a rate investigation on behalf of Varlack Ventures, Inc. and Transportation Services of St. John.

After the meeting, Commissioner Andrew Rutnik said members want to know more about how the new, federally-subsidized vessels supplied to each company have impacted overall operations.

The review comes in advance of a request by service operators to charge an additional $1 per ticket for non-residential ferry riders, which would make a one-way adult ticket $8. If the work of the technical consultant shows justification for an increase Rutnik said the next step would be the appointment of a hearing examiner to conduct the rate investigation.

“We wanted to revisit that and see if there were any changes, if having the new boats on line and whether there was any need for further review,” Rutnik said.

Regulators want to appoint a technical consultant to see if the ferry companies have found financial relief in the operation of the Cruz Bay I by Transportation Services and the Red Hook I by Varlack Ventures. The vessels first became operational in July but were taken out of service after the passage of Tropical Storm Bertha on Aug. 2.

Both vessels resumed regular commuter service by late October.

“Those issues haven’t ripened yet,” Rutnik said. In 2015 WMA will ask regulators to approve pass along fees for household trash collection, disposal of white goods and electronic waste, use of roadside convenience centers and more.

Rutnik steps into the vice chairmanship at PSC under the leadership of Johan Clendenin, appointed to the board by Governor John de Jongh earlier this year. Clendenin is a former professor at Harvard School of Business and founder of Inner Circle Logistics, a St. Croix-based company.

Both step in as the immediate past chairman, M. Thomas Jackson, steps away from a leadership position and remains on the panel as a regular PSC commissioner.