To the Editor:
On Nov. 9, the Church Street Review Committee submitted its report to the Edgartown board of selectmen on the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) proposal to install inductive bus battery chargers in front of the Church Street visitor center. The VTA proposal also includes an upgrade of the Church Street bus stop, providing more seating and shelter. The stage is now set for Edgartown residents to again consider this promising project.
The VTA plan was finalized in 2019, with the involvement of a wide-ranging stakeholder group, and was subsequently approved by the Edgartown Historic District Commission. As with many projects that bring change, there were concerns, some outright opposition, and a lot of misinformation floating about. This culminated in a successful citizen petition at the 2020 annual town meeting that asked for a review before the town proceeded with the project. In late June, the board of selectmen appointed the review committee to conduct such a review.
The committee’s report provides a thorough examination and explanation of why inductive charging is being proposed, why the Church Street site was selected, what changes to Church Street will occur, and how those changes fit with the character of Church Street and the Edgartown Historic District.
Several main points are:
- Inductive charging is essential to expand VTA’s use of electric buses. By wirelessly charging bus batteries in small increments during normal waiting, each electric bus can run for a full working day, rather than having to be switched out for a reserve bus when the batteries run low.
- Induction charging technology is proven and safe. Three chargers will be installed flush with the pavement where the buses stop for passengers.
- The vendor has a very good track record, and has been commended by users for its service.
- Church Street serves the most buses and routes. No alternative location can guarantee full electrification of the fleet.
- The benefits of an all-electric bus fleet are significant, and will reduce both air and noise pollution.
- There will be no change to the lengths of buses, the number of buses, or the amount of time each bus spends at Church Street.
- Two large utility cabinets will be added in front of the Visitor Center. To soften their visual impact, they will be wrapped with graphics or information, or otherwise screened, in a manner to be approved by the Historic District Commission.
- Additional seating and shelter is provided in a reconstruction of the waiting area in front of the Visitor Center.
- Three trees, declared in poor condition by a consulting arborist, will be removed, and three replacements will be planted at different locations. The two main shade trees in front of the Visitor Center will remain untouched.
- About 55 feet — a bit more than one-tenth — of Church Street across from the Visitor Center will be widened by two feet.
- Overhead utility lines along most of Church Street will be placed underground.
- Three of the four utility poles in the sidewalk will be removed, and their streetlights replaced with eight historic-period street lamps, providing more pedestrian-friendly lighting and leaving more room on the sidewalk for walking.
- The cost of the project is completely covered by federal and state grants. This includes bringing additional power to the site and all necessary road and utility work.
In appointing members to the Review Committee, the selectmen wisely included two vocal opponents of the project — including the author of the citizen petition calling for the review. Regrettably, both of these members simultaneously resigned from the committee after just three meetings, while the committee was still gathering information and before drafting any of the report. The committee, nevertheless, took into account and addressed the concerns they raised at those meetings. Disappointingly, one of these individuals has issued her own report just this week, repeating claims that are repudiated by the committee’s investigation and report.
The selectmen have decided to bring the Church Street charging project back to the voters at the next town meeting. We have faith that Edgartown voters will review all available information on the Church Street charging project and come to the same conclusions — that the visible changes to Church Street will be minimal, and the project will significantly improve the appearance and functioning of Church Street, at no cost to the town.
The committee’s report is posted on the Edgartown website, bit.ly/VTAreview.
Members, former Church Street Review Committee