Updated June 18
Some Edgartown residents have voiced their concerns regarding a proposed induction charging station for Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) electric buses on Church Street.
At Edgartown’s annual town meeting, voters passed an article seeking additional review by an independent consultant. Although the proposed project has already been approved by the Edgartown historic district commission, and a study done by the MVC said the project would not have a negative impact on the area, some believe the project needs another look. The VTA is looking to transition to an all-electric fleet of buses, and the $1.4 million charging station would allow buses to be charged during the day.
In March, the Edgartown board of selectmen sought assistance from the MVC in conducting an impact assessment of the area where the proposed charging station would be located on Church Street.
Through an initial study, the MVC released its findings, indicating that expanding the hub at Church Street to include charging stations would not have a negative impact on traffic, safety, or existing bus routes.
Alternative sites for the charging station, such as the park and ride lot near the Triangle in Edgartown, were also considered, although an in-depth transportation analysis was not conducted to determine the efficiency of having buses reroute to that area instead of Church Street.
In order to accommodate its fleet of electric buses, the VTA is installing overnight slow-charging stations at its headquarters at the Airport Business Park. In order to extend the operational range of the electric buses, the VTA proposes induction charging pads that wirelessly boost each bus’ battery, almost like a wireless phone charging port. In addition to the location of the chargers, another concern is that the VTA’s conversion to electric buses means their buses will be wider. The VTA has traditionally preferred buses that are no more than 8 feet wide, due to the rural roads and narrow village streets that comprise segments of its service routes. Presently, Build Your Dreams (BYD) is the only manufacturer of electric buses equipped for induction charging. All but the shortest BYD buses are 8.5 feet wide, which is the standard width of transit buses on the mainland.
Although the MVC released its initial findings stating that the stations at the VTA would be a viable option, some Islanders believe an external study should be conducted by transportation professionals.
Jane Chittick, an Edgartown resident who lives close to the Church Street station, told The Times there are several reasons why she thinks the chargers are not needed in the first place, and should not be located in the historic district.
“My first question is, Why are induction chargers needed?” Chittick asked. According to Chittick, the Vineyard would be only the second municipality in the country to install induction chargers, and would be “an expensive guinea pig” if anything went wrong.
Chittick also suggested that bus manufacturers are improving their electric bus technology at a rapid pace, and soon the induction chargers will become obsolete.
“There will soon be newer buses, and much better than their predecessors,” Chittick said.
She also said that out of all the places to build three induction charging stations, the Edgartown historic district should not be first on the list. She suggested a station at the Triangle, located in the park and ride lot.
“We have that big, ugly parking lot that has plenty of space for those chargers,” Chittick said. “Why we would choose to put these things in the center of the 400-year-old Edgartown historic district is beyond me.”
Chittick said the power storage units that would contain the electricity to power the buses would be six feet high by six feet wide, and would be “humongous and ugly.”
She also insisted that an independent study be conducted by an external company not hired by the VTA. “There is no necessity to charge the buses during the day, and there are plenty of other, better alternatives for this project,” Chittick said.
Sara Piazza, who lives directly adjacent to the Church Street station, said allowing for an expansion of that facility could be “opening up Pandora’s box,” and bringing additional, larger buses could be a problem for bikers and pedestrians.
“It’s a sort of one-size-fits-all approach to bring the monster buses over here; the expansion of Church Street is going in the wrong direction,” Piazza said.
During Monday’s meeting of the Edgartown board of selectmen, town officials agreed to form a committee with members of the public, transportation, and business owners. The town will also continue to gather opinions and perspectives from abutters and other stakeholders. Until additional review of the project is complete, no work will take place at the site.
Updated to clarify that voters at town meeting approved an independent study by external consultants. — Ed.