Commuters and travelers that rely on short-term parking at the Tisbury park and ride may soon have to pay, if a new proposal is approved. 

Drivers who have parked their vehicles at the popular commuter lot for three days or less have been able to park free of charge, but Tisbury town administrator John (Jay) Grande plans to put forward changes in order to increase the amount of money to care for the lot and other town assets.

Though a specific price hasn’t been landed on, Mr. Grande said he will propose charging a daily fee for using the lot, which connects to the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal via a free bus. 

The Vineyard Transit Authority transported more than 100,000 passengers to and from the lot last fiscal year. — Ray Ewing

“Our recommendation is that there should be a daily fee,” Mr. Grande said in a phone interview. “These capital items, like repair of the parking lot…we do need some additional revenue to do that.”

The proposal comes as Tisbury police have been receiving a growing number of complaints about the lack of space in the lot, prompting extra patrols, said Tisbury police Lt. William Brigham.

Mr. Grande believed a fee would increase the turnover of cars in the parking lot, cutting down the number of times it’s at capacity. He plans to make the fee recommendation through an amendment to an agreement for the lot between the town, Steamship Authority and the Vineyard Transit Authority. 

There has been no official recommendation for how much users should be charged per day, but Mr. Grande mentioned $2 a day as a possibility.

Currently, drivers can park vehicles at the park and ride for three consecutive days in undesignated spaces. For those parking longer than three days, payment can be made through a kiosk at the lot for $2 a day.

Parking for an extended period of time is allowed for those with permits. In the last fiscal year, Tisbury collected about $28,600 through 91 parking permits and about $12,000 from the kiosk, according to Mr. Grande. From July of last year to this past March, $25,300 has been collected through 70 permits. The kiosk collected over $21,000 in that same time period.

Tisbury police have boosted patrols of the lots after complaints. — Ray Ewing

The lot is popular with Islanders and off-Islanders alike because of its proximity to the Steamship Authority. Off-Island commuters can take the bus from the terminal to the park and ride to get to the vehicles they use for work, while Islanders can park their vehicles when leaving Martha’s Vineyard.

According to Angie Gompert, the VTA administrator, the parking lot is vital for people coming on and off the Island. In the last fiscal year, 131,441 people took the route that runs between the ship terminal and the parking lot.

“It’s an essential service for the folks that use it, for sure,” said Ms. Gompert.

While most of the tickets issued in the lot are due to overtime parking, Lt. Brigham said another major issue in the lot is abandoned vehicles.

The police have begun criminally charging the people for abandoning vehicles in addition to towing the cars. If someone is found guilty, they will owe a $250 fine and their license can be revoked for three months.

“Sometimes people decide, instead of taking their car to a junkyard, they bring it to the park and ride,” said Lieutenant Brigham. “The park and ride has been the hotspot for abandoned motor vehicles.”

From July of last year to this January, the police department says that they towed 26 vehicles from the lot for a variety of reasons, including abandonment. In that same period, over 360 parking tickets were issued.

Overtime parking is not an issue unique to the park and ride. According to Lieutenant Brigham, the issue gets worse even closer to the Steamship.

   “We write more tickets on Union street and in the Union street lot than anywhere else in town,” he said, “Even when the park and ride has plenty of spots, I think people will drive down there and park there for the convenience of it.”

Lieutenant Brigham emphasized that the contractors that park work vehicles in the lot are not the reason behind the violations in the park and ride lot.

“The contractors are legally able to be there,” he said. “They aren’t causing a problem.” 

Lieutenant Brigham believes that the source of Tisbury’s parking problems is deeper than the number of parking spaces in town. 

As housing costs increase, it is harder for members of the workforce to find a place to live on the Island. Since more employees are commuters, more of their work vehicles are taking spots in the park and ride, and the lot fills up faster.

“Ten to 15 years ago, most of the Island workforce was from the Island and lived here,” Lieutenant Brigham said, “I think the real root of the problem is the housing problem.”

Lieutenant Brigham added that the town may benefit from an additional parking lot, but that such a decision was up to the town government.

Mr. Grande has also looked into the possibility of creating another parking lot to take the pressure off the park and ride.

“I would like to, once I consolidate town hall and remove the annex, take that whole area from the annex down to animal control, and create a commercial contractor’s lot for individuals to pay to park there…That’s my big, long-term goal,” Mr. Grande said.

Although Mr. Grande announced last month that he would not be seeking reappointment when his contract ends next March, he is keeping his long term plans in mind.

“The annex are temporary trailers...and they’re showing their age, and we want to get those employees into a permanent facility,” Mr. Grande said. “It is all interrelated, but there’s opportunities here, so I want to capitalize on it.”