With concerns about cuts to Vineyard Transit Authority bus routes, VTA administrator Angela Grant went before the West Tisbury board of selectmen Wednesday evening to let selectmen know service won’t be as bad as originally thought, but there is still no service on Lambert’s Cove Road or North Road.
Routes 3 and 5 have several trips, and up-Island service has more trips than originally anticipated, according to Grant. “There is no service on North Road or Lambert’s Cove Road this year. So that is nonexistent this year,” Grant said.
Grant said it’s a “tradeoff” with transit scheduling. “We went back to the way we used to do it, which is not smooth headways, schedule’s a little bit harder to read, but it’s servicing more of the Island, and, you know, getting a better bang for our buck,” Grant said.
She added that the VTA walks a “really fine line” with the state, which controls a lot of their funding.
Selectman Jeffrey (“Skipper”) Manter said there were still concerns from West Tisbury constituents, and told Grant it would be nice to see some service return to North Road and Lambert’s Cove Road.
“I know it’s strictly a funding issue … but perhaps if you put a plan together to make up for some of these funding losses,” Manter said. “I think it would be nice to see some service. A trip in the morning, a trip in the afternoon.”
Grant said she will talk to state-level funding partners about having local towns offer funding for additional service, if they want to.
The VTA saw a 15 percent decline in ridership through the first third of its fiscal year, which includes July, August, September, and October, compared with the previous year. Echoing her comments from a VTA advisory board meeting last month, Grant said dips in ridership are due to the VTA drivers’ strike this summer, rideshare apps Uber and Lyft, and a nationwide decline in ridership. Revenue, however, is not down, due to two fare increases.
Grant said it was difficult to compare October numbers from last year, because of the two nor’easters, but there was a positive sign in November, because ridership was only down 3 percent from the previous year, with a reduced schedule.
Susanna Sturgis, a member of the Coalition to Restore Vineyard Transportation, was also at the meeting, and shared several suggestions for improvements she wanted to see at the VTA, including restoration of service, more transparency regarding service changes, advisory board meetings announced in advance, MVTV recording at VTA advisory board meetings, driver representation on the VTA advisory board, and support from selectmen. “We’d really like to see the selectmen of the various towns taking a more active interest,” Sturgis said.
Manter suggested Sturgis get on the next VTA advisory board meeting agenda and present her suggestions.