Editorial: Mackinac Island Ferry Fiasco / by admin

How do you know you are really getting to the northern tip of the "mitt"?  For me it is when I start to see a ton of billboards for Mackinac ferry service, of which there are three (Arnold, Shepler's, and Star Lines).  To get filled in on the full story to date I would suggest starting with this Mlive article.  The short of it is the city counsel is considering purchasing docks currently owned by Arnold Transit, which would effectively put the city in the drivers seat when negotiating with the ferry companies. The "positive" effects trumpeted by the city flexing their muscle with the purchase of the docks would be to lower ticket prices.  The three companies were asked, in public, to get together to try and figure out a way to lower ticket prices (something they refused to do!).  Imagine if the order of events were reversed.  All three companies did meet in private to discuss ticket prices, and then were asked in public about these meetings.  Public sentiment certainly would not be on their side.

Another point worth making, what is a "low" enough ticket price?  Is lower $.01? or $20 lower?  If the city counsel believes it can control ferry ticket pricing, then perhaps they are wasting their time.  They should really be focusing on controlling the prices of milk, bread, gas, and housing.  Ferry rides should be the least of their concerns.

If all of this seems absurd, that is because it is.  Humility is the answer here.  It takes about 10 seconds of humility to realize there is little hope of a few local government officials fully understanding how the ferry business operates.  Do they know the annual cost of operations, insurance costs, fuel costs, advertising costs, crew costs, peak travel times, how many ferry companies there should be, and how much tickets should be? No, and rightly so, why should they.

When thousands of people travel to Mackinac Island every year, they almost magically can get a ferry ride.  They do not have to wait in long lines, buy tickets weeks in advance, look hopelessly for parking near the ferry, worry about the safety of the boat they are on, or worry about getting back.  With the swipe of a credit card they can "magically" be on their way towards a vacation destination.

Here is a copy of our letter to the mayor and city counsel.  If you enjoy any of these ferry operators, we hope you will show your support to them as well.