Tisbury selectmen favor communicating with SSA
The taxi staging area near the Steamship Authority (SSA), as well as ferry scheduling, traffic and parking issues dominated Tisbury's Tuesday night selectmen's meeting in the Katharine Cornell Theatre.
In May, after several meetings with the SSA, the selectmen proposed taxi parking changes to improve pedestrian safety around the SSA terminal and to lessen the parked cabs' visual obstruction of Union Street in order to attract arriving ferry passengers to downtown Vineyard Haven.
At that meeting, the selectmen suggested reconfiguring the nine perpendicular taxi spaces to five parallel spaces on the SSA site and to move the remaining four to Union Street. Several taxicab owners in attendance strongly protested their exclusion from the decision-making process, and criticized the plan as dangerous for passengers trying to maneuver in between parked cabs.
Ray LaPorte, chairman of the Tisbury board of selectmen, challenged them to come up with a better solution, and the selectmen agreed to postpone any parking changes until after Labor Day.
In follow-up at Tuesday night's meeting, Jeff Earley, owner of All Island Taxi, read a counterproposal that he and five other Island cab company owners drafted in a meeting a few days earlier.
The letter recommended changing the angle of the parking spaces toward Union Street and allowing cabs to exit into the traffic circle. It also suggested creating a buffer between the rear bumper of the taxis and the steamship sidewalk.
Mr. Earley and Wayne West, owner of Stagecoach Taxi, told the selectmen that parked buses in the traffic circle also block the view up Union Street, and suggested using signage to attract people into downtown.
"We're not prepared to do anything tonight," said Mr. LaPorte. "We need to address this with the Steamship Authority." He added that the selectmen also would prefer cabs to enter the staging area from the traffic circle and exit out through the SSA lot, something they would be addressing with SSA officials.
Tom Pachico, selectman and Tisbury's SSA Port Council representative, said "Hopefully over the course of the winter with the Steamship Authority, we can reconfigure the parking lot." He warned the taxi drivers about the possible economic impact on their business that might be caused by SSA's plans to decrease the number of ferries into Tisbury.
John Bugbee, town administrator, said he was told by Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, that scheduling discussions should be carried out by Mr. Pachico at the Port Council meetings.
"Mr. Lamson told me that is how all the other towns are handling questions regarding scheduling, by going through their Port Council member," Mr. Bugbee said on Wednesday. "If they really wanted Mr. Lamson to attend a meeting, he would be willing to speak to them about scheduling, but he said they should start with the Port Council and go from there."
This represented a change in process, according to selectman Tristan Israel, who said, "They haven't done this before, giving the Port Council a bigger role."
Mr. Pachico said that he heard the SSA is proposing to divert three boats into Oak Bluffs next summer in order to lessen traffic in Vineyard Haven. He also said he was told that SSA management would make scheduling recommendations to the selectmen first. "Scheduling comes through the selectmen," Mr. LaPorte agreed.
Mr. Bugbee said that as far as other outstanding issues between the town and the SSA, "Mr. Lamson said we should schedule a meeting with him in the next month or so, and we will do that. It is just a matter of finding a date convenient for everybody involved."
Calling the SSA parking lot "a mess," Mr. Pachico said the selectmen and steamship officials "need to sit down like adults" and discuss it.
Added Mr. LaPorte, "The issue is communication. The Steamship Authority has a serious infrastructure problem down there, and the burden has been placed on the selectmen's shoulders instead."
Regarding traffic problems connected with the SSA parking lot, Mr. Israel said, "Whether we direct traffic off the SSA lot or not, we can't improve traffic at Five Corners."
He again suggested forming a traffic committee, but Mr. Pachico disagreed, saying traffic studies should be conducted by the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC).
Mr. LaPorte told him, "I spent an hour with Mark London [MVC executive director] about six weeks ago when traffic was an issue on the front page of some free newspaper, and he said there were MVC recommendations made that were not implemented."
Mr. Israel suggested examining solutions such as a traffic light at Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and changing Look Street to one way. The selectmen agreed to contact the MVC about the results of its previous traffic study.
In other business, the selectmen approved the opening dates for scallop season recommended by Derek Cimeno, shellfish constable. Outside the Lagoon, scallop season for families opens on Oct. 15 and commercial Oct. 17. On the Lagoon, family dates are Oct. 29 and commercial Oct. 31. Lake Tashmoo is closed for scalloping this year. The selectmen also agreed to amend a shellfish regulation regarding the west arm of Lagoon Pond where dipnetting will be allowed, but quahog rakes may not be used.