Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Bald Head Island Transportation unveils new ferry ticketing system

Bald Head Island's reverse osmosis system exceeded state-permitted arsenic levels in December 2018, January, and April. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Bald Head Island ferry. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

BALD HEAD ISLAND — Taking a trip to Bald Head Island could get a lot easier — at least that’s what Bald Head Island Transportation hopes. 

The company, which leases the ferry from Bald Head Limited, announced the launch of an electronic ticketing system earlier this month. The only public mode of transportation to Bald Head Island, the ferry now operates with paper tickets. 

READ MORE: Utilities commission will regulate entire ferry system, calls assets “de facto monopolies”

The online mode, set to go live in early June, will allow island residents and villagers to reserve tickets on a website or mobile app. 

The shift to an electronic method follows a February 2022 order from the North Carolina Utilities Commission regarding baggage. It adopted several processes to move the ferry system toward electronic ticketing and reservations. 

That order was made effective as of April 1, 2022, but with the arrival of the summer season, BHI Transportation postponed enforcement.

In June, Bald Head Limited announced the sale of the ferry system and SharpVue’s CEO Lee Roberts told Port City Daily, he planned to move to an online system for riders to make reservations in advance and receive one unified ticket for ferry and parking. 

The sale is standing pending in the NCUC, while earlier this year the commission voted to exert authority over the parking and barge, where previously it only regulated the ferry and tram.

Bald Head Island Transportation is now moving forward with an online method while the deal awaits approval.

The island’s homeowner association, at the request of the Bald Head Island Transportation, held two public information sessions in the last week ahead of the ticketing transition. Company representatives delivered a rundown of the new method and answered questions. 

According to the presentation, ferry riders will be able to book tickets in advance, synchronized with a tram ticket if the buyer chooses. The ticket will then be emailed or texted to the buyer as a QR code, to act as the ticket for one individual or an entire group, the age of sifting through multiple tickets gone. Riders will also be able to track the ferry on its route to and from Deep Point Marina. In the future, the app will be able to send alerts about service interruptions. 

Paper tickets will still be available at the marina based on availability. Any tickets already bought, including annual passes or bulk tickets, will be honored at no additional cost or expiration, according to Bald Head Island Transportation.

As explained by Bald Head Limited CEO Chad Paul and Bald Head Island Transportation COO Bion Stewart, the system will benefit riders by allowing them to make plans in advance, which in turn will help Bald Head Transportation better meet passenger demand. 

Stewart said during a holiday weekend, hundreds of travelers could arrive at the ferry station all for a 10 a..m. trip, which is first come, first serve. 

Riders will be able to board based on their class — reservations will go first, including bulk and annual passes. Then people who “walk up” will be admitted, then employees and contractors riding the passenger ferry during authorized times. If people have reserved a ticket for a different day or time, they can proceed onto the ferry after these groups per the 150-cap has not been reached. 

According to Paul, a third are vacationers and only 7% are island villagers. 

“If you’re just gonna run down there and get in line, chances are, you’re going to be in pretty good position, even as a standby, to walk on the boat and get on that ride,” Stewart said during the meeting. “So even if you’re not using the reservation system, the information that’s available can be really useful for folks to even plan a last minute trip.” 

Under the new system, people will be able to see ferry trip capacity and plan accordingly. BHI Transportation will also be able to see when it will need to pull in additional boats to accommodate a swell of people. 

“[We will use] real-time data we can communicate with our captains and crews,” Paul said during the May 30 session.


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​​Lawsuit shows Bald Head Island refused offer to buy ferry last fall

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at 

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