VTA bus drivers ask for Edgartown support

Peter Wells, owner of the Chappy Ferry, asks selectmen to increase vehicle roundtrip fares from $12 to $13. — Brian Dowd

Edgartown selectman Art Smadbeck and town administrator James Hagerty will meet with Louis Paciello, the town’s representative on the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) board of directors, after a group of VTA bus drivers voiced their concerns over stalled union negotiation talks.

VTA bus drivers have been making the rounds at Island selectmen meetings, asking each town for support in getting negotiations back to the table. The drivers are seeking health and safety improvements, wage increases in line with living on Martha’s Vineyard, and other benefits.

Attempts to join the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) have stalled over the past three years because of lengthy legal battles between the drivers and TCI. In April, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that TCI had engaged in unfair labor practices, and ordered TCI to negotiate with the drivers.

Last month, state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, sent a letter to VTA administrator Angela Grant asking her to take “critical steps” toward resuming union negotiations in good faith after VTA drivers authorized a strike.

“The drivers have run out of patience. [We’ve] already had a strike vote,” Richard Townes, a VTA bus driver, said. “We’ve tried everything.”

The last time the drivers sat down with TCI was the beginning of April. Townes said TCI will meet with the drivers for a couple of days, then not return to negotiations for several weeks.

In other business, selectmen agreed to increase the base cash fare on the Chappy Ferry for vehicle round trips from $12 to $13.

Chappy Ferry owner Peter Wells has said the reason for the increase is due to decreases in passenger fares. For the past two years, vehicle traffic has fallen 25 percent and foot traffic volume has fallen 35 percent.

The $1 rate increase will go into effect on Saturday, May 18. Wells said no other fares will increase.

Chappaquiddick residents Dorothy and John Dropick sent a letter to selectmen voicing their concerns over the rate review process for the Chappy Ferry.

At the hearing, Dorothy Dropick asked selectmen to review financial statements and all rate fares, not just the vehicle roundtrip rates.

Selectman Mike Donaroma said the town is not “working in the dark” when it comes to reviewing the financials of the Chappy Ferry.

“I think he’s doing a great job, and he’s doing the best the can,” Donaroma said of Wells.

Selectmen also approved installing five blue recycling bins for cans and bottles downtown. Rosewater Market is paying for the bins. The recyclables will be collected by the town highway department.