IF THE MBTA withdraws funding for its ferry service — as the agency proposed Jan. 3 as a cost-saving measure — the state should look for other ways to keep the boats that carry 1.3 million commuters a year afloat. If anything, ferry service connecting shoreline communities to the wharves on the Boston waterfront has room to expand, taking cars off the road and easing the strain on buses and trains.
The T keeps commuter ferry operations at arm’s length, hiring a private contractor instead of sailing the fleet itself. The boats currently serve docks in Hull, Hingham, and Quincy, requiring an annual subsidy of about $3.7 million. Other communities, including Lynn and Chelsea, have also expressed interest in adding ferry service over the years.