W.T. considers locations for electric bus equipment 

Select board also made several town appointments. 

A map showing the area around West Tisbury Town Hall and the proposed locations for the VTA electric bus equipment.

The West Tisbury select board balked at a potential location for a Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) transformer for its electric bus fleet, sending the regional transit authority back to the drawing board.

During the Wednesday, Nov. 30, select board meeting, the board reviewed a map made by Boston-based engineering consulting firm Arup, which proposed placing the transformer for the electric bus equipment on Music Street behind the West Tisbury Town Hall. This is a change from the previously proposed location. 

“Our hope was to basically switch out the existing transformer that is just off the bus circle, if you will, and just have one transformer on the property,” VTA administrator Angie Gompert said about the initial plan. “That situation got much more complicated, and then Eversource deemed that not an option that could happen.”

According to Gompert, the VTA plans to install a single transformer, alongside other requirements, in a single phase. However, Eversource did not have the capacity to run an additional service at the proposed location, which adjoins Music Street and State Road. In this area, Eversource would have had to run as a new service, and “put town hall operations out of commission for a significant period of time.” 

“So the next best location for Eversource and for the VTA is a telephone pole that’s existing on Music Street, on the church side of the street,” Gompert said. “This plan leaves the existing transformer, and does not tie in the bus service to the building service, which has pros and cons for sure. We would then have service from this new pole to a new transformer placed on the … town hall side of the street on Music Street, which we would then shield with additional landscaping.”

The 500-kilowatt transformer, the size the VTA has at its facility, has a 5-foot by 6-foot pad, and is “not more than 6 feet” in height. Gompert said Eversource requires the front door, which would face toward the town hall, “to have 10 feet of clearance,” so that if it gets too hot, workers can “use a long stick to slide open the doors and shut it off.” Additional plantings would cover three-fourths of the space for “adequate coverage of everything,” so the area remains “pretty.”

At board chair Cynthia Mitchell’s request, Gompert also provided a timeline for the project. “Timelines continue to get more and more complicated,” Gompert said. The 300-kilowatt cabinet that “would control the two chargers in the ground at the bus stop” is expected to arrive “no later than January of 2023.” Gompert hopes to start the site work for the underground chargers and the conduit work during the VTA’s slower schedule, which begins on Jan. 1. A temporary switchgear, which is currently powering the Edgartown charging station, would power the conduits. Edgartown’s permanent switchgear is scheduled to ship on March 23. The temporary switchgear is expected to be commissioned for West Tisbury in April. “We have asked Eversource for an install date of the transformer, pending all approvals, no later than May 1 of 2023,” Gompert continued. West Tisbury’s permanent switchgear is expected to arrive in 2024. 

Board member Skipper Manter was concerned that this plan would take away open space from the town. “You put the transformer back there, and you put the trees around it. To me, it’s cluttering up and closing in a beautiful open space,” he said. 

West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said another spot on Music Street was considered that would block the view of the town hall rather than the playground area, but it ran the risk of killing one or more of the mature trees in the area. Another location that was considered but was let go had too many underground systems already in place, such as a manhole, according to Gompert. These alternative possibilities were also discussed with Eversource. 

“Eversource’s requirement is it has to be able to drop the transformer in its location and then have … that 10-foot clearance on the side. They will not bring a crane or anything else to set transformer equipment,” Gompert said. 

When Manter questioned why Eversource would not allow this, Gompert replied, “I don’t know why in Massachusetts utility companies have as much muscle as they do, for lack of a better expression right now, but … they seem to have an unfair number of cards from the end user, so to speak, because of the way it’s regulated. There’s a lot of rules, and a lot of those rules don’t come up until the application’s in and they actually come out to review it, which is frustrating and expensive.” 

Board member Jessica Miller agreed with Manter’s “seeming discomfort with the location.” 

“I, for one, would be inclined if Eversource would consider to go to that location below and risk a tree or two, because a tree can be replanted,” Miller said. 

Mitchell also agreed, reaching a consensus among the board members that this was an undesirable location. 

West Tisbury treasurer Kathy Logue said the 10-foot clearance may not be cleared of underground systems either, although this would need to be double-checked. 

Manter was also not convinced that a construction vehicle cannot be driven in for the project on Music Street, closer to the trees. 

“I think it was wise to have brought it here first before we go to the historic district commission, because I think all three of us are not liking that location,” Mitchell said. 

Gompert said she will revisit details with Eversource, and have her electrical engineers draw up more plans. Additionally, she will try to get Eversource representatives to West Tisbury to figure out a better option. 

In other business, the board unanimously approved sending a letter requesting “permission to issue third quarter fiscal year 2023 preliminary real estate tax bills” from the state Department of Revenue. 

The board unanimously approved appointment of Kate Warner to the Eversource working group and Patrick Barrett to the West TIsbury zoning board of appeals as an associate member. It also reappointed Ernie Thomas to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. 

The board unanimously approved State Road Restaurant and Plane View’s annual beer and wine license renewals. Additionally, the board unanimously approved State Road Restaurant’s request to close from Feb. 19 to March 25, 2023.


  1. Please stand up to this run away group and the huge electric buses running on propane. Edgartown caved in and let them remove large trees and ruin the downtown historic district all because we like so called electric buses. This is all about getting so called free money from the government that needs to be spent. Watch these large buses run empty most all of the time year round. I try and use the bus at the ferry but it always leaves just as the ferry pulls in, how about that for a schedule! So I wait and the bus is never even close to full. No need for these oversized buses rolling the Island.

  2. Bob– thanks for not claiming they are running on coal.
    46% gas, 23% nuclear, 10 % renewables.
    But what you are missing is the efficiency of the electric drive trains.

    But I do agree that such large busses are unnecessary, especially in the winter.
    many Caribbean islands have “route taxis ” — vans that can accomodate about 12 people and run a loop. They are cheap, frequent, and often full.

  3. The VTA electric buses can’t run a full day on most of their routes in season thus they have had to buy additional buses to cover their routes. What’s the additional carbon footprint/economic costs? What’s done with these mammoth batteries when they end their life cycle?

    • John– the U.S. consumes nearly 20 million barrels of oil per day.
      What do they do with all those empty barrels ?
      Can I run now run for senate as a republican, since I am asking such a logical question ?

  4. John–

    recycling lithium ion batteries currently is not doing well, but we know it will get better

    But after bus batteries reach the end of their useful lives as bus batteries, there is still plenty of capacity to use them for trimming the peaks off of the peak loads of the electrical grid.
    Or, if they are going to just throw them away, I’ll take one, charge it with solar panels and run my house off of it for the next 30 years. There are plenty of possibilities if we care to think out of the box.

    But really, most Americans could not care less about recycling anything– I guess if they just throw them away.. What would be the problem ?
    Certainly you, Bob and andy wouldn’t care.

  5. There are a lot of concerns about carbon emissions and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission goal is to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. Perhaps we could hear from the commission how these buses help in that regard with some actual facts and figures. This is their task, is it not? From MV Times article June 22, 2020… “Last year, the commission established the Climate Action Task Force, a group dedicated to addressing the Island’s response to climate change. The task force is made up of MVC commissioners, MVC staff, community climate experts, and leaders of local sustainable businesses and organizations.

    The task force is developing policy and plans in two areas: adaptation to the current and future challenges resulting from climate change and mitigation of the Island’s contribution to climate change.

    At a meeting Friday, Hannemann presented the electricity working paper.

    The task force’s mitigation is primarily focused on eventually eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel energy generation and use. Their goals are to reduce fossil fuel usage on the Island by 50 percent by 2030, then100 percent by 2040”

    • Frank– good comment , as always.
      But the goal of a 50% reduction in the next 7 years is a realistically unachievable pipe dream.
      100 % reduction in the next 18 years is ridiculous and gives the climate deniers and those who somehow think this will cost too much money an opening to ridicule the environmentalist as radical alarmist. andy will tell us all about it , I’m sure.
      And really, are there any hard statistics that in the last 2 1/2 years the vineyard is using and less fossil fuel that it was in June of 2020.
      If there is a goal, the commission should have a big sign up somewhere showing us our progress– like fundraisers do.
      I personally think we are likely using more fossil fuels today than we were in June of 2020 when this lofty goal was implemented.
      Any commission members care to correct me ?
      Does anybody have any numbers on this ? Is there even any kind of mechanism to monitor this ?

      100 % means I will not be able to put 3 -in- one oil on my bicycle chain in 2040.
      but of course, if we plant trees , that will “offset” it all.
      I’m getting sick of the lofty rhetoric and the do nothing reality.
      The Tisbury police don’t even enforce MGL Chapter 90 section 16 A that makes it illegal for the dumbest people on the planet to leave their f- 350’s idling in the “stop and shop parking lot” for 30 minutes while they go grocery shopping or wait for the ferry directly in front of the Tisbury police department.
      The O.B police are even worse– they actually leave their cruiser running in front of the police department whenever the temp is below 40 degrees.

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