To the Editor:
Since the announcement of service reduction by the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA), Vineyarders have come together as the Coalition to Restore Vineyard Transportation. We are riders, VTA drivers, and Island residents who don’t ride the bus regularly but recognize the importance of year-round bus service to our neighbors and friends.
Our recent town hall, held on Nov. 16 in West Tisbury, was attended by more than 30 people who rely on the VTA, many of whom ride at least one bus that was scheduled to be eliminated for the winter on Dec. 1. The planned cuts left those who live and/or work in Chilmark or Aquinnah completely without service, and those in West Tisbury with substantial cutbacks. The updated winter schedule reflects feedback given by riders and drivers at the town hall and at the well-attended consumer advisory group meeting held at Woodside Village on Nov. 6. Up-Islanders who depend on VTA buses will no longer be left entirely to their own devices. We applaud the VTA board and administration for listening to all who have spoken out.
Having listened to the drivers, the Coalition to Restore Vineyard Transportation believes that by making slight adjustments in Routes 2 and 4, residents who rely on the bus all year will not be left without service. For instance, riders on Route 2, which includes Lambert’s Cove Road, might be covered by adjusting some trips of Route 3. Statistics on how many people ride a given route are useful, but it’s the drivers who can fine-tune this data by telling us where riders get on and off. Because we’ve seen how much the drivers care about their passengers, we recommend that VTA drivers be included in all discussions about service changes and that a driver representative serve on the VTA Advisory Board.
The VTA Advisory Board exists to provide oversight and guidance to the VTA on behalf of all Vineyard residents, particularly riders. Its members are appointed by the boards of selectmen, one from each town plus a rider representative and a representative from the disability community. The board can play a crucial role in fostering a productive relationship between the VTA administration, riders, drivers, and the general public. The Coalition to Restore Vineyard Transportation also makes these recommendations:
- Ensure that Vineyarders who depend on the bus continue to have service all year-round.
- Practice transparency and clear communication about service changes, including the rationales for them.
- Provide more than 48 hours’ notice of VTA Advisory Board meetings. (We understand that the board is planning to institute a regular, predictable meeting schedule, and support this wholeheartedly.)
- Engage MVTV to record public board meetings and post them in their Video on Demand section. This will enable those who can’t attend meetings in person to stay informed about their bus service.
All of us — VTA riders, drivers, administration, and advisory board — share a goal: to provide the best service to Vineyard residents. Let’s work together to make this happen.
Susanna J. Sturgis
Coalition to Restore Vineyard Transportation