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SECTION 7 Strategic Planning in Ferry Service Development The major subheadings of this section follow the steps outlined in the top part of the flow chart depicted in Figure 6-1: Problem identification Assessment of all transit alternatives--incorporation of goals, criteria, and measures Analysis of the ferry alternative Assess economic and financial impacts Determine efficiency and effectiveness The Go/No-Go decision Each step is discussed in depth below. Problem Identification Ferry service is provided as a means of public transportation to serve a number of different constituents. In service areas where ferry routes compete against other transit modes or auto- mobiles, ferry ridership is sensitive to outside influences that may increase or decrease ridership on a monthly basis. Gas prices, unemployment levels, and traffic congestion are just a few factors that influence ridership in both the short and long term. Ferry operators operating in this type of environment are aware of these factors as they impact competitiveness and marketability. Operators who provide ferry services where there is no other transportation alternative are less prone to fluctuations in ridership, although these operators face their own set of factors that influence financial viability. Tourist season, weather conditions, and service headways influence the financial break-even point and the level of profits earned during the year, but ensuring that ridership returns every year can be a source of concern during down economic cycles. Analysis of new or modified ferry routes should take into account a number of different factors. Unlike landside transit routes, ferry routes typically are point-to-point routes, with no stops along the way. If a route is modified, the new landing point should be demonstratively better than the previous one for both passengers and the operator. If a new route is introduced, it should be demonstrated that the service catchment area has the characteristics and demographics of a productive route. This section outlines these characteristics. Private Operators Private operators operate closer to the economic margin than public operators, who generally have several sources of revenue besides ticket receipts. Private operators also consider their ability to make large capital expenditures as well as any increase in operating or maintenance costs. 93