Chittick gives response to Church Street project

Selectmen don’t respond to critic of VTA charging station.

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Edgartown selectmen had few words for Jane Chittick’s report on the VTA Church Street project. — Brian Dowd

Edgartown selectmen listened to but did not comment on a report from Jane Chittick, an Edgartown resident who opposes the Vineyard Transit Authority’s proposed inductive charging station on Church Street.

During the board of selectmen’s Monday meeting, Chittick argued that the proposed project, which would install three inductive bus chargers at the Church Street bus stop as part of the VTA’s plan to go all-electric, was an “untested, short-term technology.”

Instead Chittick proposed using “clean diesel” and hybrid electric buses. “Yes, everyone is waiting for the day when all-electric bus fleets can appear and advance so they could be deployed one day, but right now it is out of the question,” Chittick said.

But according to both the VTA and the Church Street Review Committee, the time for an electric bus fleet is now. In a 23-page report, the committee laid out the benefits of the project, which include no cost to the town, being a positive impact on the attractiveness of Church Street, eliminating telephone poles, widening the street, eliminating exhaust fumes and bus pollution, and making the street safer.

The town’s historic district commission, as well as the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, have also said the project would not have a negative impact on the area.

Chittick was a former member of the town’s Church Street Review Committee, but resigned before the committee presented their unanimous endorsement of the project.

The project was held back by town voters during the June town meeting in a 96-83 vote that created the review committee. While the project would be federally funded and come at no cost to the town, town leaders anticipate the project will be on the 2021 town meeting warrant to make sure voters ratify it, after they were divided on it at town meeting.

Despite resounding praise from town leaders, boards, and committees, Chittick, who lives on Upper Main Street about a block from the project, said now is not the time to approve the charging station.

“The Island and the VTA are ignoring the facts about the electric bus technology, and it’s irresponsible on our part. The all-electric transit system, for the foreseeable future, is nothing but a myth,” Chittick said. She added that cities such as Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia have not yet fully switched to all-electric fleets. She suggested national qualified independent transit consultants should look at the VTA’s management.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck thanked Chittick before promptly moving on to the rest of the board’s agenda items.

In other business, selectmen appointed Ross Seavey, the Tisbury building commissioner, as Edgartown’s alternate building commissioner. Two weeks ago, Edgartown’s building commissioner, Reade Milne, was approved as an alternate in Tisbury, giving both of the town’s some backup.

Edgartown selectmen also appointed Chris Edwards as an interim board of health member until an election could be held in April.