"Lisa: Dad, we did something horrible!
Homer: Did you wreck the car?
Homer: Did you raise the dead?
Homer: But the cars okay?
Bart & Lisa: Uh-huh.
Homer: All right then."
The Spirit of Ontario is a beautiful ship, in her own way. Sure, she looks a bit like a building, but she's fast and well built. Sure, I never thought there was really a business plan in a fast ferry between Rochester, NY, and Toronto. (Note that there's no need for me to say where Toronto is. Case made.)
But it's still depressing to hear that "Canadian American Transportation Systems" -- one of that class of risk-shielding partnership entities that ensure that the brain-farters get off and their fellow-travellers eat dirt -- has pulled the plug on the "Breeze" starting tomorrow, September 8, 2004. Just a few months after starting.
I made a bet with somebody a few years back. I told him that if the ferry was still in operation 18 months after it started, I'd take him out for a night on the town, my treat. I'm not in touch with him anymore, but I wouldn't have minded losing that bet.
So many people here got taken for a ride, from the crew who advocated restoring the Hojack Swing Bridge in Charlotte (at the Port of Rochester), to their fellow-travellers who advocated restoring the old trolly service from Charlotte to High Falls, or installing a comprehensive light rail network into a geographically dispersed metro area of 200,000. Pipe dreams -- millions of dollars of labor and material cost, powered by the fantasy of providing something interesting in Rochester for tourists from Toronto. The future of the ferry was always regional, in Finger Lakes tourism: The many "wine trails", the nigh-alpine scenery from the shore of central NY towns like Geneva and Canandaigua, the outrageous density of festivals from June through September. These were things that made our area at least a bit special. But they weren't Rochester -- they weren't smugtown.
Mayor Johnson is struggling to keep the ship running -- if not on its current twice-daily 7-day schedule, at least once a day, four or five days a week. I think he believes that if it stops, it won't ever get started again, and I believe he'd be right in that. The most sensible course of action for the CATS board right now is to preserve their reputations (of course, at that level of investment, there's no really personal investment stake -- these guys will all come out of this deal having made money) is to sell the boat, sell the concession, somehow -- maybe move it to Buffalo and run it to the Thousand Islands.
What the hell.