Lost in spaces


There’s a parking problem in Vineyard Haven. That’s not exactly breaking news. But it’s how the town’s parking committee and possibly the board of selectmen want to help ease that parking problem that has us scratching our heads.

At a selectmen’s meeting last week, there was a lot of talk about going after commercial vehicles that use spaces at the park and ride lot and other public parking lots. Selectman Tristan Israel referred to them getting a “free ride” and, in turn, making a lot of money on the Island.

There was talk of raising the rates on the commercial vehicles that park overnight on the Island, with very little discussion about the cause and effect such a policy would have. Maybe they’ll figure that out at the public hearing stage.

Just who does the board of selectmen think will pay for the increased costs for off-Island businesses to park on the Island? Do board members think Terminix, FedEx, or Pella windows is going to pick up the tab?

Not a chance. Any increase in parking fees or anything that forces companies to make more ferry trips with their vehicles will be tacked onto the bills of the Island property owners who use those goods and services.

We’re certainly not suggesting that businesses get a free ride, and there are some companies — and private individuals — who take advantage of public parking lots, but any decision on the town’s parking plans should carefully consider the repercussions on residents of the Island, not just in Tisbury, and the added burden it might put on their wallets.

We were also struck that with so much need for parking, there are spaces going unused on a daily basis in a town parking lot. The lot is located on the former site of the town fire station on Beach Street, near Cumberland Farms.

“Every time you go by it, doesn’t it frost you that there is a parking lot with empty spaces?” David Ferraguzzi, a member of the parking committee, said.

On any given day, you might see seven to nine cars parked in the lot, with more than a dozen available spaces going unused. The lot looks like it could accommodate about two dozen vehicles, maybe more, with a better design. Meanwhile, nearby Main Street is slowed to a crawl on a daily basis as tourists hoping to visit a restaurant or one of the many shops search for an elusive parking space.

Mr. Israel was the loudest critic of a plan by the parking committee to end the practice of leasing spaces at the site in favor of paid parking at the town lot, using a kiosk system. Having more people use the lot would only exacerbate the traffic problem on Beach Street/State Road in that area as motorists slow down to turn into the lot, Mr. Israel said.

We’re dumbfounded.

Having available parking in the downtown area would actually get some cars off the road, which should help ease the traffic. Actually, as much as we hate how long it takes to get around, all that traffic, especially in July and August, should be seen as a good thing, because it means the Island and Vineyard Haven businesses are vibrant and doing well.

It makes absolutely no sense to have town-owned land, just a short walk from the business district, going underutilized. In fact, the town should work on a plan immediately to begin using the spaces not leased for paid parking downtown. The fees could cover the cost of an attendant until a kiosk system is in place.

The committee is calling for a two-year test of the town lot. We’re not sure two years is needed, but a trial period at the town lot would also serve as a good test to see if metered parking on Main Street, Union Street, and Water Street could help with the flow of visitors in and out of parking spots in the business district.

Mr. Israel wants a study. Study? We don’t need a study to know that every available space is needed. It’s time to act.