Islanders addicted to autos - newer, bigger, dearer
We're none of us getting any younger - but if you live in Chilmark, Tisbury, or West Tisbury, your cars and trucks apparently are.
According to excise tax records kept by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the Vineyard has been home for many years to one of the most geriatric fleets of motor vehicles in the state. The latest figures, for calendar year 2005, tell much the same story: The average age of registered vehicles in Island towns ranged from 11.16 years in Tisbury to 13.17 years in Aquinnah.
But in Chilmark, Tisbury, and West Tisbury between 2000 and 2005, the fleet grew slightly younger as folks bought new vehicles. Indeed, across the Island, everybody seemed to be on an automotive buying binge over the past five years: The count of all registered vehicles on the Vineyard jumped by 23.2 percent, from 22,166 in 2000 to 27,310 last year. During that same span, the state total grew just 10.5 percent.
Photo by Susan Safford
Equally dramatic was the increase in Island vehicles which the state counts as luxury cars: They numbered 1,703 in 2000 and jumped by 24 percent, to 2,114, in 2005. The sharpest increase in this fraction of the fleet came in Oak Bluffs, which saw its luxury car count climb from 407 to 549, a whopping 35 percent. Statewide, the luxury car numbers grew by just 6.9 percent during this same period.
Breaking down the growth in Island vehicles, it turns out that the fleet of conventional passenger cars actually grew at close to the statewide rate over the past five years - by 7.3 percent from 2000 to 2005. Meanwhile, the category of light trucks, which includes SUVs, jumped by 35 percent - from 8,466 on the Island in 2000 to 11,422 last year. (In fact, light trucks, heavy trucks, and trailers together accounted for more than half the total vehicle fleet on the Island last year.)
And while thirsty SUVs and luxury vehicles continued to be popular among Island drivers over the past five years, so was a potentially frugal option: the motorcycle. The fleet of motorcycles registered on the Vineyard grew from 545 in 2000 to 929 last year, an increase of 70 percent. In West Tisbury during this period, the motorcycle fleet ballooned from 67 to 160, an increase of 238 percent.
A look farther back into state records reveals that the total number of registered vehicles on Martha's Vineyard was under 13,000 as recently as 1990. That means the locally registered rolling stock on Island roads has more than doubled in just 15 years.