Ferry service for Charlotte Amalie cut back for two months
Round trips to Cruz Bay to be cut to 3
Friday, August 24th 2007
By TIM FIELDS
ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Public Services Commission approved a request by ferry companies Transportation Services of St. John and Varlack Ventures to reduce the number of round trips the companies run from Cruz Bay to downtown Charlotte Amalie.
The change - which will take effect on Sept. 6 and will last through Oct. 31 - will cut the number of round trips in half, from six to three.
The new schedule will be: Departing from Cruz Bay at 7:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 3:45 p.m.; and departing Charlotte Amalie at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.
Representatives of the ferry companies said that with the decline in ridership this time of year, it is not profitable to have so many runs. They also said cutting the number of trips will allow them to do maintenance and repairs on the vessels.
Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures must get PSC approval to reduce any of its runs because in 1987 the government awarded the companies an exclusive 30-year franchise to run passenger ferries between St. Thomas and St. John. The purpose of the agreement was to ensure reliable ferry service and to allow PSC regulation of ticket prices.
According to the ferry companies, ridership between 2004 and 2006 on the downtown runs declined sharply in August through October.
In August 2004, the companies reported that more than 4,100 passengers took the downtown ferry. In 2006, ridership fell to 819 passengers.
The dramatic reduction in ridership probably is caused by the ferry companies' inconsistent service on that route, several PSC members said.
The PSC has chastised the ferry companies in the past for canceling downtown runs without informing the public.
PSC member Joseph Boschulte said the trips may not be affordable because ferry companies are not providing the service they should.
Boschulte voted against the trip reduction. PSC members voting in favor were PSC chairwoman Alecia Wells, Raymond Williams, Verne David, Donald Cole and M. Thomas Jackson.
Under the PSC's order, the ferry companies must reinstate six round-trips on the downtown route on Nov. 1.
- Contact Tim Fields at 774-8772 ext. 364 or e-mail email@example.com
Certified Tour Guides taking the next step to improve services
By LYNN FREEHILL
Saturday, August 25th 2007
A group of St. Thomas taxi drivers who earned certification as tour guides in December continue to forge ahead: they formed a limited liability company, launched a program to give free or discounted tours to local youths and pledged to install seatbelts for every passenger in their vehicles by the end of 2008.
The 35-member Certified Tour Guide Association also is poised to expand to St. Croix later this year.
The certification course, which was developed by the University of the Virgin Islands' Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning center in cooperation with local taxi drivers, is scheduled to be offered on St. Croix this fall for the first time. Its curriculum is being tailored to include that island's history and points of interest, program manager Debra Stevens said.
The course will retain its sections on presentation skills and customer service. It then will be offered again on St. Thomas later in the fall, Stevens said.
Once taxi drivers have completed the 12-hour course, which includes a written and an oral exam, they may use special decals on their vehicles and join the tour guide association.
The association has its own promotional website and has been hired to provide large group tours by organizers who want to ensure that the visitors receive accurate information about the Virgin Islands' culture, history and points of interest.
The Certified Tour Guide Association has obtained sponsorship - from FirstBank, Diamonds International and Marion Mathes Insurance - that will enable it to give those same factual tours to local students regularly for free or nearly so, president Bruce Flamon said.
In part because more youths will be traveling in their vehicles, association members pledged to install seatbelts for every passenger by the end of next year. Because that can cost around $35 per seatbelt, and some vehicles carry more than 25 passengers, that process will be slow going for some drivers, Flamon said, but it is worthwhile for safety's sake.
Additionally, association drivers plan to donate $1 from every tour they give to visitors to Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone's Young Entrepreneurship Gala Foundation, which recognizes V.I. residents under 40 who have been in business for at least four years. The foundation is working to establish scholarships and grants, which the donations will assist with, Malone said.
- Contact Lynn Freehill at 774-8772 ext. 311 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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