Boat Line Proposes to Run Van from Wharf to Park-and-Ride

By JONATHAN BURKE

Tisbury selectmen next week will consider the Steamship Authority's proposal to run a shuttle service between the town park-and-ride lot and the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal.

Under terms of the proposal, from June 25 through the end of the year, from 5:30 am to 9:00 pm, the SSA would "dedicate a van to run continuously between the terminal and the lot."

"The basic idea," said Fred Raskin, the SSA's chief operating officer, in a letter to the selectmen, "is to offer a service which guarantees that passengers who park in the lot will make the next scheduled vessel sailing, and that passengers arriving from off-Island will have transportation waiting at the terminal to take them back to the lot."

Not entirely satisfied with the Vineyard Transit Authority's current service between the park-and-ride and the ferry terminal, the town selectmen support the SSA's initiative.

"It seems to be not all the boats are caught in the summer time. It sounds like a good idea," said Tom Pachico, selectmen. "The [VTA's] buses don't just seem to be geared absolutely around the boat."

Mr. Pachico said the SSA's proposal would need some "tweaking."

Ray LaPorte, selectman, said "unreliability" in the connection between the park-and-ride and departing boats was the "number one complaint."

"A reliable transportation service to and from is essential to the success of the use of the park-and-ride . . . My first impression [of the SSA's proposal] is that it addresses the very problem that's been prevalent and I think it will do so successfully."

Tristan Israel, chairman, said "the lot costs us a lot of money and is grossly underutilized." He said a necessary improvement is to have a shuttle service that guarantees a bus to meet every boat.

Ideally, said Mr. Israel, the SSA would operate a dedicated run to the ferry and the VTA would continue to offer its more general bus service.

Steve Sayers, SSA counsel, said the number of trips on the SSA's run was a detail yet to be worked out.

During the summer, the VTA offers 40 daily trips, leaving the park-and-ride in periods ranging from 10 to 55 minutes apart. During the winter, the VTA's service is less regular. Angie Gompert, administrator, said there is not always a bus for every boat during the winter.

If accepted, the SSA's service would be free initially. After that it would be funded through parking revenues, said Mr. Raskin.

"As the end of the trial period approaches, we will sit down with the town and discuss whether we should continue the service during 2004 and, if so, how it should be structured," wrote Mr. Raskin.

Whether shuttles are operated by the VTA or the SSA, there is wide support in Tisbury for more regular and frequent shuttle service than currently exists.

Ted Saulnier, police chief, said a regular shuttle service between the ferry terminal and the park-and-ride - like the VTA's shuttle service in Edgartown - would relieve downtown congestion and improve safety.

"I think the park-and-ride should be included in an overall scheme of some sort - an overall townwide parking plan. And I also think it should be serviced by some sort of shuttle bus to and from the steamship and that should be on a regular basis," said Chief Saulnier.

"Picture it," said Mr. Saulnier, explaining how it currently works. "Somebody comes to shop in the downtown Main Street area. They drive down Main Street and don't find a parking spot. They do one of a few things."

Typically, Mr. Saulnier said, the driver will turn up or down one of the side streets. A driver, he said, might turn down Union street, which will feed the car onto Water street and then through the perpetually busy Five Corners.

"That just creates more trips throughout all these roads that that one car is making," he said.

The Tisbury Business Association and the Police Advisory Committee also support a more frequent shuttle service.

Jeff Kristal, president of the business association, said a more convenient shuttle service "would free up spots downtown for people to use as they come into town to shop for an hour or two."

Mr. Kristal, also chairman of the Police Advisory Committee, said the PAC supported a more regular shuttle service for, among other reasons, to alleviate traffic downtown.

In Edgartown, during the summer, the VTA operates a free shuttle between the triangle and downtown every 15-20 minutes from 6:50 am to 11:15 pm.

In a separate development, the VTA, according to Ms. Gompert, is scheduled to begin using the recently constructed roundabout at the Vineyard Haven terminal on June 16. The VTA currently uses the SSA's drop off and pick-up lanes for its passengers.