Publication Date



The Center for Economic Development at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst, is part of the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Department, and is funded by the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the University of Massachusetts.


This studio project conducted by second year Regional Planning students from the University of Massachusetts examined the potential impacts of moving the Steamship Authority Ferry Terminal from its current location in downtown Tisbury to town owned land on Beach Road, just west of the Oak Bluffs draw bridge (See Figure 1). The Steamship Authority acts as the life line which connects Martha's Vineyard to the mainland. After a preliminary evaluation of limited data, safety emerged as the predominant concern associated with the relocation site. With the other impact categories essentially balancing each other out, is the additional risk associated with maneuvering the vessels at the relocation facility worth the estimated $50 million in construction costs?

Four main impacts were identified that were associated with a proposed move of the existing terminal: first, economic impacts on the Town of Tisbury of the existing terminal, the proposed site, and one potential reuse of the existing site; second, traffic problems associated with the existing terminal and potential impacts if moved; third, environmental impacts of a new terminal and reuse of the existing site. Finally, safety problems allied with current ferry operations and those imposed on ferry operators if the new site were built.

The economic impacts on downtown Tisbury were assessed in three ways. First, was to analyze the spending patterns and impact of daytrippers on the Town of Tisbury. This was done in relation to the existing site and for the relocation site. It was assumed that relocating the facility would have a negligible impact on the number of daytrippers shopping in the downtown. Second, the economic impact from passengers waiting in the vehicle standby line were examined. No data existed, preventing a quantifiable dollar amount from being established. However, it was determined that the relocation of the ferry terminal would prohibit these passengers from being able to easily access the downtown. Therefore, the revenue generated by passengers waiting in the standby line would be lost. Third, was the economic impact associated with the reuse of the existing facility. A marina would generate revenue previously unavailable to the town.

Transportation near Five Comers in downtown Vineyard Haven is a well known problem throughout the summer months and often into the off-season as well. Traffic studies done at Five Corners revealed that the Steamship Authority generates only a fraction of the vehicles which must pass through this intersection. The impact of relocating the facility will eliminate approximately 50% of all Steamship Authority related vehicles traveling through Five Corners, but this is not sufficient to noticeably reduce congestion at this intersection. Therefore, traffic congestion would not be sufficiently mitigated through the relocation of the facility. Additional research is recommended to analyze the impact of the additional traffic generated by the reuse.

The identified environmental impacts associated with the relocation are based upon the fact that the relocation site is a designated barrier beach and shellfish beds would be destroyed. However, mitigation measures may be permitted and would be sufficient in addressing the barrier beach and shellfish issues. Such issues would be determined by the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency permitting process which the relocation project would be required to undergo. Potential sources for water pollution would increase with the construction and operation of a marina. Pollution associated with automobile emissions from vehicles waiting at the terminal facility could be mitigated at the relocation site through improved designed standards.

Safety was the last category examined. Vineyard Haven harbor is open to the northeast and as such is vulnerable to winter storms which directly afflict the harbor. The location of the existing facility is in the safest spot within the harbor. It is protected from wave action by the artificial breakwater jetty and from winds by both East Chop and West Chop. The relocation facility would be protected from wave action as an extension of the Eastville Jetty would be completed, yet it is afforded no protection from winds.


Section 8: Pages 1-59