Updated as of 6/7/2019.
Casco Bay Island Transit District (Casco Bay Lines) is currently in the process of updating a portion of its existing fleet of vessels. Casco Bay Lines maintains a Transit Asset Management Plan to track the inventory of transit assets (including vessels), their condition and costs associated with their maintenance. This is common practice for any business seeking to plan and budget for the inevitable depreciation and increased maintenance costs of their assets. Typically, Casco Bay Lines passenger vessels have a “useful life” of approximately 30 years. While they can still be utilized safely beyond that point, repairs and maintenance become prohibitively expensive. The Casco Bay Lines Transit Asset Management Plan identified that the Machigonne II is beyond useful life and the Maquoit is approaching the same status.
As part of a long-range planning process undertaken by the Casco Bay Lines Board of Directors (Board) between 2015 and 2016, the Board agreed to a number of goals and priorities, one of which was to secure funding for the design and construction of a new ferry. With the support of the Federal Transit Administration, the State of Maine, the City of Portland and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS), Casco Bay Lines has, as of February 2019, secured sufficient funds to design and construct one new vessel.
Based on demand and facility constraints, the Maine Public Utilities Commission currently allows for Casco Bay Lines to utilize a fleet of no more than five vessels, four for regular operations and one spare. To help determine which of the current vessels should be replaced with a new vessel, and to assist with the Schedule Analysis Project, Casco Bay Lines issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a qualified consulting firm to evaluate the current fleet and schedule and make recommendations to the Board.
This process, referred to as the Schedule/Fleet Analysis, included historical data analysis, a survey of all users of the ferry system, an open house at the Casco Bay Lines terminal, and public meetings on each island. Public feedback and data collected was utilized by the consulting firm to assist in their evaluation. Following a presentation from the consulting firm with their recommendation of which vessel should be replaced first, at the public Board meeting on May 17, 2018, the Board voted to use existing funds for a new vessel for Peaks Island service and to move forward in seeking additional funding for a new Down Bay Islands’ vessel.
Casco Bay Lines had developed an RFP to select a vessel designer, inviting over eleven firms to consider submitting a proposal, and advertising the RFP. Four firms submitted proposals, two were short listed for interviews and Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG) from Seattle, Washington, was selected. Casco Bay Lines entered into a contract with EBDG in May of 2018 and they began the work of assessing the vessel requirements using results from the fleet analysis work done by KPFF.
Casco Bay Lines invited members of the Board and the public to join a vessel advisory committee and conducted a public kick-off meeting with the committee and EBDG on May 22, 2018. Since then, EBDG has been working to determine possible vessel configurations that meet the needs of Casco Bay Lines and conform to the various regulatory requirements and operational constraints. A second advisory committee meeting was held in October 2018 for EBDG to share progress and seek additional input.
As of June 2019, the vessel design process remains in the preliminary stages and EBDG is compiling their recommendation with the evaluation of various hull configurations and propulsion systems. Following completion of this analysis, they will deliver their comprehensive recommendations, including size, capacity, hull shape and propulsion, to CBITD in the form of a Preliminary Design Report (PDR). CBITD will then present the PDR to the public at a public meeting on Peaks. EBDG’s recommendations, along with public comments from this meeting, will be presented to the vessel advisory committee and then the Board, for their consideration.
Should the Board approve the PDR, the preliminary portion of the vessel design process will be considered complete and final design work will begin. This phase of a project involves detailed design work for the various elements of a project. There will be another opportunity for public input at the completion of final design followed by a Board vote. Should the Board approve final design, the design phase will be complete and construction will begin.
An informational public meeting was held on March 23, 2019, to discuss capacity for the new vessel currently being designed for Peaks Island service. Representatives from Casco Bay Lines presented an update on the current status of the Fleet Evaluation Project and the new vessel design. The public had an opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions at this meeting. A copy of the presentation can be found here and an audio recording of the meeting can be found here*. Answers to questions posed at the meeting were posted in the Frequently Asked Questions section of this page below.
The Board took up consideration and action specific to capacity guidance for a new Peaks Island vessel at the public Board meeting on May 23rd. Following a request by the Board, CBITD staff prepared the following materials in advance: Commitment Letter from City of Portland – May 7, 2019 , CBITD New Peaks Island Vessel 30 Year Financial Pro Forma, Executive Summary & Analysis – May 20, 2019, and CBITD Staff Memo: Vehicle Reservation Update – May 17,2019.
In recognition of the concerns raised by a group of residents, an amendment was offered during the May 23rd meeting to restrict passenger capacity of the new vessel to a maximum of 499 passengers on outbound trips to Peaks Island and a maximum passenger capacity allowed by final vessel design for inbound trips to Portland. Ultimately, the Board approved the amendment and voted 9 to 2 to provide staff with their approval to proceed in designing a vessel with capacity no greater than 599 passengers and 15 vehicles.
The design process for the new vessel remains in the initial stages. Casco Bay Lines strongly encourages public participation at all stages. In addition to the ten previous public meetings related to the Fleet Evaluation Project, there will be future opportunities for public input prior to the Board’s consideration of a proposed final vessel design.
Date, time and location of future public meetings will be posted on our website as well as shared via email to subscribers of our email newsletter list.
Questions? Contact: Paul Pottle, Director of Projects for Casco Bay Lines at 207-774-7871 or moc.s1571416314enily1571416314abocs1571416314ac@pl1571416314uap1571416314.
* This audio recording was taken on March 23, 2019, at the public meeting of the Casco Bay Island Transit District held on Peaks Island at the Peaks Island Elementary School. The recording covers the entirety of the meeting beginning approximately at 10:00 am and concluding at approximately 12:30 pm.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1) Why is Casco Bay Island Transit District (CBITD) in the process of designing a new vessel for Peaks Island service?
The CBITD Transit Asset Management Plan (TAM) identified that the Machigonne II (the car ferry that currently services Peaks Island) is beyond its useful life and the Maquoit is approaching the same status. This means that the Machigonne II has been in operation for 30+ years and, while safe to operate, it is becoming prohibitively expensive to maintain and operate. During 2015-2016 strategic planning sessions, the CBITD Board of Directors (Board) agreed on several priorities, including the need to perform a schedule and fleet analysis, the need to develop a vessel replacement schedule, and the need to secure funding for vessel replacement. Following the Schedule/Fleet Analysis (see FAQ #7), the Board voted on May 17, 2018, to proceed with design for a new vessel to service Peaks Island.
2) How far along is CBITD in the process of building a new vessel?
Naval architects, Elliot Bay Design Group (EBDG), were hired through a competitive process to manage the design process and, ultimately, propose a new vessel design for the Board’s consideration. As of May 2019, EBDG is approximately 20% through the preliminary design process.
3) How is the new vessel being paid for?
With the help of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the State of Maine, the City of Portland and PACTS, CBITD has secured the approximately $11.2M in funds needed to design and construct one new Peaks Island ferry. With the support of Senators Collins and King, $6M of this funding came from the FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program. CBITD competed with passenger ferries nationwide in 2017 to win this competitive grant, receiving the highest award in the country. The remaining $5.2M in funding comes from a combination of FTA urban formula funds and funding from the Maine Department of Transportation and the City of Portland.
4) How much has already been spent on the new vessel?
CBITD has, as of May 2019, awarded one contract in the amount of $774,269.97 as part of the new vessel design to the naval architect firm EBDG for services related to the design of the new vessel. As of April 30, 2019, $274,136.66 in payments have been made by CBITD pursuant to that contract. Once the preliminary design is approved by the Board, EBDG will be authorized to complete the final design and develop final plans and specifications to be used to advertise for a shipyard to construct the vessel.
5) Who is responsible for oversight of CBITD?
The FTA, Maine Public Utilities Commission, Maine Department of Transportation, United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the Department of Homeland Security all oversee CBITD in some capacity.
6) Are there any regulatory requirements for the new vessel process?
The new vessel process follows FTA grant requirements and the new vessel must conform to existing USCG regulations.
7) What information/sources of input is CBITD using as part of this process?
A marine transportation consulting firm, KPFF, was hired through a competitive process to evaluate the current schedule and fleet and make a recommendation to the Board as to which vessel to replace first. This evaluation is referred to as the Schedule/Fleet Analysis. CBITD also hired a naval architect, EBDG, to provide a proposed vessel design for the Board’s consideration. The Board is also receiving input from the Vessel Advisory Committee, members of the public and CBITD staff.
8) What is the Vessel Advisory Committee?
The Vessel Advisory Committee (VAC) is a concept that came out of Board strategic planning to ensure that a smaller group would have the opportunity to serve in an advisory role to the Board on the project. Such committees are a common tool used by public entities to increase quality of public participation in such a process. The composition of the committee was also set during Board strategic planning to include members of the public, CBITD staff and Directors from the Board. All VAC meetings are posted and open to the public. The VAC has no authority to create or approve policy or make any final decisions.
9) Who is on the Vessel Advisory Committee?
|Dan Doane||Board – Peaks (Peaks)|
|Dave Crowley||Board – Down Bay (Cliff)|
|Scott Johnston||Board – Down Bay (Little Diamond)|
|Bill Overlock||Board – Down Bay (Long)|
|Valerie Kelly||Public Member- Peaks Resident|
|Bob Hannigan||Public Member – Peaks Business|
|John Condon||Public Member – DB Res (Long)|
|Paul Belesca||Public Member – DB Bus (Chebeague)|
|Hank Berg||General Manager|
|Nick Mavodones||Operations Manager|
|Caity Gildart||Sales/Mktg. Manager|
|Bruce Woodman||Maintenance Manager|
|Gene Willard||Senior Captain|
|John Tracy||Senior Captain|
|Gary Cressey||Operations Agent|
|Gretchen Frank||Deck Hand|
|Paul Pottle||Director of Projects|
10) Are members of the public welcome to join the Vessel Advisory Committee?
There are currently no “Public Member” openings on the VAC. Should there be an opening, a new member would be appointed by the President of the Board. Members of the public are welcome to attend all VAC meetings.
11) How can the public be assured that all arguments are being considered by decision makers?
All feedback received on the new vessel (via email or mail, at public meetings, as part of the survey, over the phone or submitted on paper feedback forms) is being provided to the Board for their consideration. CBITD has held a total of ten meetings open to the public and conducted a survey related to the new vessel to ensure meaningful public participation in this process. It is the responsibility of the Board to consider this feedback, along with other inputs, as they make any decision related to the new vessel.
12) Were options other than building one new vessel considered?
No. The PUC allows CBITD to maintain a fleet of no more than five vessels. The Machigonne II is beyond its useful life and needs to be replaced. CBITD is fortunate to have secured funding for one new vessel at this time and the Board voted to first build one new ferry capable of servicing Peaks Island with passenger, vehicle and freight service.
13) When was the decision made to build a vessel with higher passenger capacity?
No such decision has been made. The Board voted on May 23rd, 2019, providing CBITD staff with capacity guidance to provide maximum passenger and vessel capacity parameters to the naval architects as they progress through the preliminary design phase.
14) Will a higher capacity vessel be larger in size?
It is possible that the proposed vessel design will be larger than the size of the Machigonne II. Size of the vessel is determined by both passenger and vessel capacity as well as layout. The size of the vessel is constrained by existing space for berthing at CBITD’s Portland terminal.
15) Why doesn’t CBITD increase capacity by running an extra boat on busy days?
Currently, if the ferry to Peaks Island reaches capacity, passengers must wait for the next boat or, if CBITD can, a second vessel is deployed or re-routed at additional cost. Frequently, a Down Bay vessel underway and carrying passengers is re-routed to assist, inconveniencing those passengers who may be going to a scheduled appointment or flight. This is costly and not efficient. Using two vessels increases the passenger capacity up to 798 passengers each way to accommodate the demand during the busiest days.
16) Could CBITD require larger parties to charter a private boat?
CBITD is required by law to provide service to all passengers seeking to utilize the ferry at the PUC-approved rates, regardless of factors such as the size of the party they are traveling in. Private charter service is available at a premium rate for those seeking exclusive access to a CBITD vessel (often the Bay Mist). CBITD does not, and could not, require groups not seeking this exclusivity to pay a premium rate for service.
17) What does CBITD do currently to prepare for those days when you expect higher number of passengers?
Daily passenger counts vary considerably based on factors such as weather conditions and groups. When CBITD is contacted by large groups, they are provided with information on chartering a private vessel. However, many choose to use regular service. Because we CBITD is fortunate to be in close communication with the wedding and event venues on the islands, unexpected capacity issues usually happen only with very little or no advanced notice. In those cases, Captains and shoreside staff communicate about the best way to accommodate customers.
18) Has CBITD considered other options to manage growing demand such as a reservation system?
The Board has recently tasked CBITD staff with investigating the possible implementation of a vehicle reservation system. This investigation will take into consideration the complexities of our current ticketing structure. Ultimately, only the Board has the authority to move forward with a passenger reservation system. The Board has previously considered priority boarding and determined not to pursue due to legal risks and logistical challenges.
19) Will a higher capacity/larger vessel impact the schedule?
The number of daily trips to Peaks Island will not change as a result of this project. A parallel Schedule Analysis Project is currently in progress and the most recent draft proposed alternative schedule to Peaks Island maintains the same number of daily trips. At this time, no changes to the schedule have been approved by the Board of Directors.
20) Will a higher capacity/larger vessel cost more to operate and maintain?
No, not necessarily. Expense for a vessel can be estimated by looking at the six categories of vessel operations expense including fuel expense, employee wage expense, general maintenance, drydock, diving, oil change and insurance expense. As part of the Board’s consideration of capacity guidelines for a new vessel, CBITD staff prepared a formal, and variable, financial analysis projection for three various vessel sizes to present to the board and the public. Based on our findings, the three preliminary designs being considered by EBDG ranging in capacity and size all have very similar total costs. For example, while maintenance costs may rise slightly to cover additional square footage, fuel costs actually decrease with lengthening of the vessel.
21) Wouldn’t a higher capacity/larger vessel simply increase the build-up that leads to a high demand to return to Portland from Peaks Island during the afternoon?
No. This scenario would require CBITD ridership on outbound trips to Peaks Island to greatly increase beyond our projected ridership data. Assuming growth in ridership continues at the projected trends, CBITD does not expect that ridership on outbound trips to Peaks, or subsequent “build-up” on Peaks Island in the afternoon will increase any differently as the question suggests. Additionally, the Board could restrict the passenger capacity on a larger capacity vessel by policy on trips outbound to Peaks Island and remove the restriction on inbound trips to Portland in the afternoon by policy to alleviate afternoon congestion on the island.
22) Has CBITD considered the financial implications of various new vessel designs?
Yes. As naval architects are only 20% through the design process, there are many factors beyond capacity (propulsion system, layout etc.) that have not yet been determined that will influence the financial model associated with any final design. However, CBITD, in partnership with marine consultant KPFF, did analyze the financial implications of not replacing the Machigonne II and determined that a more modern car ferry for Peaks Island was critical to the long-term financial health of CBITD. And, as part of the Board’s consideration of capacity guidelines for a new vessel, CBITD staff prepared a formal, and variable, financial analysis projection for three various vessel sizes to present to the Board and the public to demonstrate the financial implications of a higher capacity/larger vessel.
23) As part of this analysis, has CBITD determined a “break-even” point for the current vessel and new vessel options?
Yes. In order to execute the financial analysis for the Board, CBITD has analyzed break-even points for current and proposed vessels making a number of assumptions. In FY2018, Peaks Island service resulted in a contribution to the overall CBITD operation (system wide) of roughly $2.2M of which $317K can be attributed to vehicle and freight revenue. Each of the three various vessel sizes being considered by EBDG proved out to similar financial performance in forward looking projections.
24) Will costs associated with the new vessel be passed along to customers in the form of fare increases?
There are currently no plans for a fare increase. Remarkably, CBITD Peaks Island fares have not increased in over 10 years, in part due to increased ridership. CBITD’s efforts to replace the Machigonne II with a more modern vessel are designed to stave off the potential need for fare increases in the near future due to the increased cost to maintain the 32 year old Machigonne.
25) Will the new vessel have any features that enhance safety or customer experience?
The new vessel, as is the case with all vessels in our fleet, will meet all current applicable United States Coast Guard safety regulations. Should a double-ended vessel design be selected and approved by the Board, it would likely provide more time for loading and unloading of passengers and vehicles. The new vessel will likely be very similar to the Machigonne II in its features.
26) What is CBITD doing to prepare for any potential future dip in ridership due to economy, weather, etc.?
In 2017, the Board approved a New Fund Balance policy, allowing CBITD to set aside revenue during profitable years in preparation for potential dips in revenue. CBITD works diligently to maintain the fiscal health of the Transit District through conservative financial practices. a capital reserve fund to account for any unpredictable dips in revenue. For example, the financial analysis currently underway for the new vessel project factors in future recessions based on past data. As a result of these efforts, CBITD’s Peaks Island fares have not increased in over 10 years – this includes the period known as the Great Recession. Financial data is audited by an independent organization and made available on the CBITD website. Finally, although CBITD has not had to exercise this option for the past five fiscal years, there is a line of credit option available to cover a lean period.
27) Does existing infrastructure support a higher-capacity vessel?
Yes. Naval architects are working within the existing infrastructure constraints. The capacity of the vessel will be one of many factors that impacts the size of the final proposed vessel. This includes considerations related to the depth of the existing channel to ensure the new vessel will not “bottom out” as some have suggested.
28) Will any measures be taken to increase safety during loading/unloading?
CBITD is currently in the process of renovating its terminal in Portland. In light of the increased demand for service, many of these renovations are aimed at enhancing the safety of passenger, freight and vehicle flow through measures that account for increased traffic on site such as improving pedestrian and vehicle queuing. Additionally, CBITD is working closely with the City of Portland as they move forward with proposed improvements to their property on Peaks Island designed to increase safety.
29) Is CBITD making any improvements to infrastructure to support expected growth?
To account for significant growth since moving to the Maine State Pier in 1988, CBITD’s infrastructure at the Portland terminal is currently undergoing renovations. Many of these renovations are aimed at enhancing safety and maximizing space in the constrained existing terminal footprint.
30) Who has authority to determine the capacity of the new vessel?
The Board is the only entity with the authority to determine the capacity of the new vessel and, will ultimately do so when they consider both preliminary and final design proposals for the new vessel. They have provided guidelines to CBITD staff and naval architects for use during the vessel design process and have voted to restrict vessel capacity on outbound trips by policy for the new vessel.
31) Do Peaks Island residents play a role in the process?
Peaks Island residents are encouraged to play a role in the process by providing input to their local elected representatives on the Board who are ultimately tasked with making any decisions about the new vessel. Members of the public from Peaks Island are also included in the composition of the VAC and were surveyed at the outset of the project. CBITD has provided ten different opportunities to provide input at public meetings, exceeding all requirements for public input in this project. Finally, Peaks Island residents, and all members of the public, are encouraged to provide input at any point in the process. CBITD encourages public input from any interested party at all stages of the process and all input is considered by the Board regardless of a person’s residential status.
32) Is quality of residential life on Peaks Island being considered as part of this decision?
CBITD’s mission is to provide sufficient dependable, reliable service in a safe and secure manner, as affordably as possible, so as to preserve the six year-round island communities it is tasked, by law, to serve. As a result, CBITD has a strong connection to Peaks Island and its residents. However, the Board is tasked specifically with considering what is best for the entity that is the Transit District in making any decisions and, as such, local issues related to the islands themselves are more appropriately addressed outside the official business conducted by CBITD.
33) Would CBITD participate in a process to discuss future of tourism on Peaks Island?
As a stakeholder in Casco Bay’s island communities, CBITD would consider participating in any conversation related to the future of tourism on Peaks Island, especially if those entities with the authority to discuss and enact policy changes were involved in any such conversations. CBITD is currently working with the City of Portland in such a manner (see FAQ #28).
34) Does service to Peaks Island subsidize service for other islands?
Yes. However, due to cross-subsidization, increased revenue from Peaks Island service in the summer could just as accurately be characterized as subsidizing Peaks Island winter service and Down Bay freight revenue in the summer could just as accurately be characterized as subsidizing Down Bay winter service. The Maine Legislature enacted the law to create CBITD in 1981 to ensure a model of cross-subsidization to prevent historical interruptions in service to any of the six islands during the winter season. The entire transit district operates successfully only as one entity.
35) Is CBITD building a higher capacity vessel because it has determined there is a need for increased revenue?
No. CBITD is not specifically seeking an increase in revenue from farebox or freight sales associated with the Peaks Island vessel. Rather, CBITD staff have recommended to the Board that a higher-capacity vessel is necessary to prevent increased costs associated with deploying a second vessel to meet projected growth in demand over the 30-40 years this vessel would be in service.
36) Does CBITD seek to increase other sources of revenue outside of service to Peaks Island?
CBITD is consistently acting to ensure the long-term financial health and viability of the transit district. This includes lowering operating costs by replacing aging assets and improving schedule efficiencies, planning for future growth and seeking opportunities to support regular service with increased revenue through secondary services such as our specialty cruises and private charters.
37) Does CBITD share minutes from public meetings?
Minutes are required at every Board meeting. Minutes for each Board meeting are approved at the subsequent meeting and are posted on the CBITD website once they have been approved by the Board and signed by the Clerk.
38) What are the next steps in the new vessel process?
As of June 2019, the vessel design process is approximately 20% complete and EBDG is compiling their recommendation with the evaluation of various hull configurations and propulsion systems. Following completion of this analysis, they will deliver their comprehensive recommendations, including size, capacity, hull shape and propulsion, to CBITD in the form of a Preliminary Design Report (PDR). CBITD will then present the PDR to the public at a public meeting on Peaks. EBDG’s recommendations, along with public comments from this meeting, will be presented to the vessel advisory committee and then the Board, for their consideration. Should the Board approve the PDR, the vessel design process will be considered approximately 40% complete and final design work will begin. This phase of a project involves detailed design work for the various elements of a project. There will be another opportunity for public input at the completion of the design process followed by a Board vote. Should the Board approve final design, the design phase will be complete and construction will begin.Notice of public meetings will be sent out to the CBITD email newsletter list and posted on the CBITD website.
39) How soon would the new vessel be in operation?
Following the Board’s approval of a final proposed design, the design phase will be complete and construction of the new vessel will begin. It is CBITD’s hope to have the new vessel in operation in Summer 2021.
40) What will the new vessel be named?
The name of the new vessel will be selected by the Board during the end of the construction phase. In the past, CBITD has included public input in this process.
41) What is the best way to share my feedback?
CBITD encourages all members of the public to share their feedback during this process. Future opportunities will be made available to share feedback at public meetings. Those meetings, when scheduled, will be posted on the CBITD website. Additionally, feedback can be sent via email to Paul Pottle, Director of Projects for Casco Bay Lines at moc.s1571416314enily1571416314abocs1571416314ac@pl1571416314uap1571416314 or mailed to Casco Bay Lines Attn: Paul Pottle, P.O. Box 4656, Portland, ME 04112-4656.
42) How can I get more information?
General questions about the new vessel can be directed to Paul Pottle, Director of Projects for Casco Bay Lines at 207-774-7871 or moc.s1571416314enily1571416314abocs1571416314ac@pl1571416314uap1571416314. Media or FOAA requests are best directed to Hank Berg, General Manager of Casco Bay Lines at moc.s1571416314enily1571416314abocs1571416314ac@bk1571416314nah1571416314. More information will be posted on the CBITD website as well as in the CBITD email newsletter.