|Shelter Island Reporter
March 14, 2002
Prose & Comments
SEEDS meeting tonight is perfect opportunity to discuss
alternate ferry service
By Stuart Hample
In any public forum on the East End relating
to transportation, when one mentions the possibility of the establishment
of a ferry service between New London and the South Fork, itís easy, no
matter how civilized the discourse, to sniff the scent of opposition in
the air. It is arguable that this is motivated by a suspicion that the
other side wants to dump its dirty laundry in your yard. And vice versa.
Probably the only way to dissipate this discord
is to hang all the facts on the line and let the sunshine expose the dark
patches for everyone to see.
Then (to milk the metaphor) we will be able
to iron out the wrinkles.
Here on the Island we see the proposal for
a South Fork Ferry as a blessing, while it seems some folks to the south
see it as a threat.
The issue is the capacity of our ferry companies
to handle the increasing number of vehicles that come to the Island from
the mainland. For years the ratio worked; there was fairly free flow on
and off the Rock. But in the last number of years, traffic has expanded
exponentially. With the result that, at certain periods, access to and
egress from Shelter Island diminishes alarmingly. What to do, eh?
Both ferry companies have addressed this issue
by commissioning bigger, more efficient boats, showing that they donít
have their heads in the sand.
But if the trend ó as it appears to be ó continues,
due to more travel here since 9/11 and supported by school enrollments,
restaurant business and other quantifiable data points (not to mention
interminable ferry lines at crunch times) the ferries will be unable to
get ahead of the glut of increased traffic.
As such, we seek only a seasonal bit of relief
at the margin.
Itís not that we wish to keep people off the
Island, rather that we want those coming here as their final destination,
as well as those who commute -- some for pressing medical reasons (itís
heartbreaking to hear the people who must sit anxiously in long traffic
lines when they leave the Island for daily chemotherapy treatments) ó to
have easier access. Whatís more, a ferry directly from New London to an
easterly landing would ease the burden on the south shore itself by having
some of the traffic heading west while the bulk is still heading east.
To deal with this pesky transportation problem,
there are two options: (1) Think parochially and do nothing so that inevitably
it mushrooms into an unacceptable, unsolvable mess, or (2) Think regionally
and augment a plan to add height-of-season ferry service from New England
to accommodate those who regularly travel from there to south shore communities
ó while relieving Shelter Island ferries from attempting to carry beyond
capacity and becoming an obstruction to transportation on the East End.
The facts of the situation clearly indicate
that it is more efficient for the region to have boats bearing 90 cars
land at an open space that leads directly to their ultimate destination,
than to have these vehicles proceed through three little towns with the
expense of time and money necessary to cross two bodies of water on two
Tonight there is a SEEDS (Sustainable East
End Development Strategies) meeting at the Shelter Island School starting
at 6:30 p.m., at which this subject will be brought up. Itís your chance
to speak out about your concerns for the Island. Accordingly, it will be
advantageous to have as many Shelter Islanders in attendance as possible
to weigh in on this crucial matter. Come to state your opinions and to
ask questions. Come even if only to listen to the back-and- forth discussions
so you will be able to make an informed decision if, some time down the
road, youíre asked to vote one way or the other. There also will
be a meeting of the Citizens for a South Fork Ferry on Saturday at 10:30
a.m. at Edward and Patricia Shillingburgís, 4 West Neck Road. The meeting
is open to all.
Mr. Hample is a member of the Citizens for a South Fork Ferry.