PORTLAND, Maine -- Operators of a passenger ferry between Portland and Yarmouth say advance bookings are up compared to last year.

Bay Ferries Ltd. President Mark MacDonald tells the Portland Press Herald that advance ticket sales are up at least five-fold from 2016.

About 35,500 passengers rode the ferry last year, far below the ridership of 90,000 to 100,000 in 2007-2008.

MacDonald said that if the bookings hold, then passenger volumes could attain levels reached before the ferry service was cancelled in 2009.

MacDonald said he views the early ticket purchases as an "extremely encouraging sign" but he acknowledges the data from January through April isn't an apples-to-apples comparison because of the late start last season.