Local government should be commended for their interest in bringing high-speed ferry service to Rochester. Low-cost, convenient access to Toronto would be a significant asset to the UR community.
However, following the bankruptcy of Canadian American Transportation Systems and the suspension of the “Spirit of Ontario” fast ferry service, a new approach is needed. A smaller, less extravagant vessel could operate with increased daily frequency and with lower ticket prices.
The city is currently poised to bid up to $43 million to purchase the vessel at a bankruptcy auction. However, this approach is unwise.
CATS’ failure has demonstrated that the vessel is costly to operate, and the city suggests they will have to subsidize the service if their bid is successful.
At auction, the city will compete with several interested parties, including the Istanbul Fast Ferries Co., which is looking to purchase nine additional ferries. A higher final auction value will raise ticket prices.
The community wants faster and more convenient access to Toronto and Canada, not a luxurious cruise ship. The vessel boasts a restaurant, bars, two small movie theaters, an arcade, a casino, a duty-free shop, wireless Internet and even a segregated business class – luxuries that, to students, poorly justify the service’s $56 ticket price.
The city should search for a smaller vessel and operate it with expenses in line with similar services, such as the Bay Cruise fast ferry service in Boston.
Students will view the ferry as primarily a mode of transportation to Canada, with the “entertainment experience” secondary.
As the closest large city to Western and Central New York, Toronto is a destination in and of itself – having entertainment aboard is not necessary.
Therefore, the cost of the service ought to be comparable to that of a ferry service, not a cruise ship.