A limited sunset shuttle for Menemsha that was put back into service on Saturdays after intervention by Chilmark Town Hall and the VTA isn’t seeing much ridership. As The Times previously reported, the VTA took the shuttle offline on Saturdays and on foul weather days because, among other things, drivers were hard to come by. The shuttle, which runs from a lot on Tabor House Road to Menemsha in time for popular sunset vistas, has failed to meet expectations after the VTA administrator Angie Grant found a driver to support Saturday and foul weather service.
Overall, harbormaster Ryan Rossi said traffic in Menemsha was normal for the season, however he noted it has been impactful being unable to utilize the Home Port parking area “as an outlet.” Unfortunately, Rossi said, the sunset shuttle “is not seeing a lot of ridership” despite signage and oral pitches to tourists.
Rossi thought the most cars recently seen at the Tabor House Road parking lot amounted to five.
“Angie Grant sent me a copy of the spreadsheet with the ridership, and it is very low,” Rossi said. “So though we have advertised it, we have signage out, it doesn’t seem that a lot of people want to take advantage of the opportunity to use the sunset shuttle bus.”
Select board member Bill Rossi was puzzled by the low ridership. He noted in previous years the shuttle had seen high ridership, and a great many cars parked in order to use the shuttle.
Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren agreed the shuttle numbers were way down from years past, and said there may be more than one factor at play. A prior hiatus of the service and a late start this year were two examples he gave as to why the ridership was diminished
In contrast, Rossi said, the regular route VTA bus that comes to Menemsha was “loaded every time it comes in.”
Rossi said he was at a loss for what was behind the low shuttle ridership. “I don’t really know why people don’t want to use it,” he said. “We tell them about it when there’s nowhere to park … must be less than desirable to have to do it.”
Rossi also said folks without permits have been parking on the West Dock, and his department was going to crack down on that practice.
The board learned the $176,000 Seaport Economic Council grant recently received by the town for help in replacing the commercial wharf in Menemsha came with a string attached. Rossi said the town must provide 20 percent of the sum in matching funds, about $44,000.
The board was unsure which fund it would tap to muster the matching funds, but promised it would have it when needed.
Rossi explained the grant will assist in Phase II of the dock replacement, which consists of generating several new designs for 600 to 700 feet of dock and bulkhead.
Peter Neilly, who worked with Rossi to apply for the grant and who has been aiding with the project, said the design process “will require a lot of interaction with the community and stakeholders.”
On behalf of the board, chair Jim Malkin thanked Rossi and Neilly for hard work on the complex subjects of getting the grant and advancing the projects.
“This is going to be a significantly expensive project,” Malkin said. “We’re talking millions of dollars here. So we need to get it done right.”
Neilly said the “best guess” so far was about $5 million.
Rossi informed the board a repair to the southeast corner of the commercial wharf was completed. He said the work was executed in a single day and the dock wharf was again structurally sound in that area.
“We were quoted at $15,000 for that project,” Rossi said. “John Packer did mention to me that he believes we’re going to come in somewhat lower than that figure.”
Rossi also said Menemsha was getting ready to host Meet the Fleet on Thursday, August 4,
from 3 to 7 pm.
“We have a number of commercial fishing boats coming in from around the Island and the New Bedford area,” he said
Chief Klaren said it was a “great event,” and Chilmark Police will have a presence.
In other business, the board learned a letter of interest has been received from members of Spring Point Homeowners Association about possibly setting aside year-round housing for community employees.
In a 2-0 vote, with Malkin recusing himself, the board appointed Joan Malkin as a full-time member of the zoning board of appeals. The board unanimously appointed Billy Dillon as local inspector.