Editorial: A plan for Tisbury
October 6, 2005
The Tisbury selectmen can't see the forest for the trees. They are focused on their benighted claim that in addition to hundreds of thousands spirited from the pockets of Steamship Authority passengers into the port town's treasury, they ought to get $40,000 more, just for old times' sake. Following their leadership, Tisbury business people, Tisbury residents, and Island residents generally will arrive at next spring without anything having been done to alleviate traffic congestion at the SSA terminal and elsewhere in town.
Tisbury and all Islanders, no matter where they live, need a way out of the wilderness. And stumbling along with the town's chief executives, they won't find it. Here's a suggestion.
First, the selectmen ought to pipe down and get out of the way. Suggestions, such as the one made recently by Ray LaPorte, the chairman of the Tisbury selectmen, that Marc Hanover, the Vineyard SSA member and an Oak Bluffs businessmen, may be encouraging a shift of trips from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs to serve his own business interests, are base and baseless and will only serve to make concrete improvements impossible. By his remark, Mr. LaPorte has diminished himself and confirmed the hopelessly crippled nature of the relationship between Tisbury leadership and the boatline.
Second, the traffic mayhem in Tisbury is not exclusively a boatline problem or a Tisbury problem. And the solution lies in the fruitful interdependence of town and ferry company. The town planning board and Steamship Authority managers should get together and map out a strategy for traffic flow changes and management initiatives that, once and for all, will serve to improve the congestion that afflicts folks going to the boats, folks getting off the boats, and folks everywhere else in the vicinity of downtown Tisbury.
This means hiring knowledgeable, professional traffic planners. It means that the town, the Steamship Authority, and the five other towns must pay for this solution and have a part in its creation. It also means that town and Steamship Authority must agree in advance that when a proposed solution is agreed to by all hands, it will go to town voters and to the Steamship Authority members for action. There have been plans in the past for rerouting Tisbury traffic, for improving parking, for reconfiguring the Steamship terminal to ease congestion, and for remote staging for ferry-bound autos, among other desperate proposals. Few have been enacted, and all have disappointed because success depends on integrated efforts that may offer hope for real improvement, never mind a solution, which may not be within reach until the SSA moves its terminal to the Beach Road east of R.M. Packer Co.
Still, much of value can be accomplished. Traffic flow and management can be improved. Cooperation between town and boatline can be achieved, but not under the failed leadership of the Tisbury selectmen, who would rather argue, blame, threaten, and withhold services than enlist results-oriented help to find answers to the question posed by too many automobiles, resident and transient.
Every indicator suggests that the knot of congestion will be drawn impossibly tighter in the years to come. Consider that this year, although Steamship Authority traffic continued its multi-year decline, traffic jams were worse than ever. The Island population of year-round and summer residents grows, even if the ferry traffic declines slightly. The number of vehicles registered here grows too, and in the summer, nearly every one of those vehicles is started up and driven around, adding to the traffic snarl. Late next year, the boatline will add a new vessel to its fleet, one that will carry more cars and trucks than any of its predecessors, and reduce turnaround times on the trip between Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven as well. The need for some fresh and careful thinking about traffic management in Tisbury is now.