Oak Bluffs considers launch of a park and ride service

The Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority plans multi-year fare increases. A public hearing on the plans will take place today, December 5, at VTA headquarters. The first of the fare hikes will become effective January 1. — File photo by Susan Safford

On Thursday afternoon, the Oak Bluffs Roads and Byways Committee met to continue its discussion of whether to launch a Park and Ride Service this summer. The goal of the program is to alleviate parking congestion in downtown and along the bulkhead during the busy summer season. The primary audiences for this service are business employees in downtown and commuters who use ferry service to and from the town docks. The proposed parking lot, which is already owned by the town, is at the corner of Pacific Avenue and School Street behind the Catholic Parish Hall and adjacent to the town hall and library.  The proposed Park and Ride route would run back and forth from that lot to Ocean Park downtown.

Angela Grant, Administrator of the Vineyard Transportation Authority (VTA), described two options for consideration. One is “split schedule” with a break in service in the middle of the day. A full schedule running continually from 8 AM until approximately 8:30 PM is the second proposed plan. Rough cost for the split schedule is $40,000 and the full schedule is anticipated to be $62,000. The first year program would run for 74 days, from June 20 to September 1st.

Who Will Use the Service?

There appeared to be consensus on the committee and in the audience that either schedule would meet the needs of day shift employees downtown.

Doug Abdelnour spoke from the audience about the need for the schedule to accommodate late-shift workers also, especially wait staff and bartenders after midnight. He pointed out that if the last bus is at 8:30, the route schedule simply won’t meet this group’s needs. He said, “If an early schedule ends up being the only option, word travels fast, and I would hate to see the program fail from the start.”

Ms. Grant then outlined a new route schedule for the other VTA buses serving Oak Bluffs. “There will be two more buses leaving Ocean Park at 1:30 AM and 2:30 AM on route 13 from opposite Ocean Park to Vineyard Haven. These buses could easily stop on New York Avenue where passengers could walk the remaining two or three blocks to the parking lot,” she said, and added, “That service will also begin on June 20th.”

Who will pay for the service?

Oak Bluffs will be responsible for funding the project. But Ms. Grant said that she is hopeful the state transportation department will assist with some funding. And, given its support of the existing Park and Ride in Tisbury, the Steamship Authority is also a potential funding partner.

Deadline Looms

The VTA needs a final decision on the project within the next couple of weeks if it is going to able to include the information on its summer route map. There is a printing deadline as well as a planning timetable to be met. Michael Santoro, committee chairman and Oak Bluffs selectman, proposed that the issue be decided at the next selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, February 24th. The vote on that motion was unanimous.