Ferry Line Traffic Down 5 Percent in 2011

Vehicle traffic on the Washington Island Ferry, the key barometer of business on Washington Island, dropped five percent in 2011. Passenger traffic dropped three percent.

While tourism trends on the Door Peninsula may not have followed this same pattern, the decline in ferry traffic occurred despite renewed marketing efforts by the Ferry Line and the Island Chamber of Commerce.

Dick Purinton, the Ferry Line’s CEO, said traffic is down about 15 percent since 2003.

As a result, the price for passenger and auto tickets for 2012 will increase as of April 1, 2012, according to the proposed Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc. tariff.

Round trip adult and child passenger tickets will increase by $1, as will tickets for autos round trip. Large trucks, trailers and cargo will remain the same.

The overall costs of operating the ferry service have risen significantly in the past three years as traffic has delinked.

The establishment of the Northport Visitor Center that opened last June was a positive step forward in marketing Washington and Rock Island, but its influence alone did not help to restore visitor numbers.

“We remain optimistic for the 2012 season,” said Hoyt Purinton, Ferry Line president. “While we’ve made numerous adjustments to reduce our yearly operating costs, stagnant or declining revenues need to be improved through both traffic volume and the fare revenues coming from that traffic. We’re really talking about tourism, because June, July, August and September – those four months – account for approximately 75 percent of annual Ferry Line revenue. ”

“We’ll continue to work closely with the Door County Visitor Bureau and their members to help strengthen this area’s tourism economy,” he added.

The Ferry Line recently completed repowering the 1979 ferry Robert Noble at Bay Shipbuilding, a project that was prompted by aging propulsion equipment and new EPA laws that require clean engine emission compliance.