VTA halts Medivan service

As strike enters its second week, Island elders feel the effects.

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The VTA Medivan is on the sidelines during the bus drivers' strike. - Lexi Pline

Updated July 9

The Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) has canceled its Medivan service due to the ongoing drivers’ strike.

Fallout from the strike, which is entering its second week, has affected tourists and Islanders — especially seniors.

Jean Cargill, an Island resident who lives in Woodside Village in Oak Bluffs, is one of those seniors. In January, Cargill scheduled a ride with the VTA’s Medivan service so she could get to her appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. On Monday when Cargill called to check in on her ride, she was told her the Medivan service was not running. 

“I received no notice,” Cargill said. “When I made this appointment, I put it off an extra two months. I’m very disappointed.”

When she called the VTA to check in, she said, she received no apology, and was not given any help with finding an alternative, she said.

Cargill supports the drivers on strike, but said she hopes the drivers and their parent company, Transit Connection Inc., find a solution soon. “I can take the Peter Pan bus, but it’s going to cost me a lot more,” she said. 

The VTA’s Medivan service offers $30 roundtrip (including ferry passage) medical transportation to Boston for seniors age 60 years or older and disabled people. The service operates year-round on Tuesdays, but has been halted since the strike. The vans hold up to 12 people at a time. Ridership is heavier in the spring and fall, and lighter in the summer and winter.

The VTA stopped Medivan service last week. A woman who works at the VTA, who identified herself only as “Helen,” told The Times the halted service was “obviously” due to the strike. The VTA does not have a set date for when service will return.

VTA administrator Angela Grant told The Times five people were scheduled for the Medivan service Tuesday, but service was canceled.

Service to Boston and Cape Area medical facilities will be restored when the strike is over. We apologize for the inconvenience,” Grant said in an email.

The VTA also canceled its day service for seniors to the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living in Vineyard Haven last week, but has since returned to normal operations.

The day service is a special contract between the VTA and the Center for Living that shuttles seniors.

Leslie Klapp, Center for Living’s director, told The Times she had to work with each client’s individual family to coordinate rides to the day programs. Most were able to get to the programs, but some could not. “It’s very disruptive for folks who really need routine and regularity in their lives,” Klapp said. “It has a big impact.”

The fill-in drivers that the VTA has hired to replace the drivers on strike are also problematic because they don’t know the seniors, and can’t cater to the needs that regular drivers would know, Klapp said.

Meanwhile, drivers on strike have taken notice of the lack of transportation and have been offering transportation.

Roland Goulart, one of the drivers on strike, has been offering rides free of charge to people who normally take the VTA buses. Since the strike began, Goulart has driven 182 people to every Island town when he is not picketing with his fellow drivers. He drove 65 people in one day. Other striking drivers have offered rides to a total of 427 people. “People have offered me tips; I do not accept tips,” Goulart said.

Updated to add comments from Angel Grant. — Ed.