Following the Vineyard Gazette's initial reporting of the story (a story that garnered 46 mostly negative reactions in the comments section) it published a follow-up piece, on January 9, 2020, entitled Bus Sense. The following are excerpts:
...Taking down shade trees to make way for an electric bus charging station is an obvious environmental contradiction in itself. And while the VTA will build a pergola at the site to make up for the loss of tree canopy, it’s hard not to cringe at the image of the leafy, sun-dappled area around the visitor center, right in the heart of the downtown historic district, transformed to an urban-like setting with more hardscape.
But there are even larger issues to consider as downtown Edgartown with its narrow streets, most of them laid out in the days when horse and buggy were the main mode of transportation, becomes increasingly congested with summer traffic, including bus traffic. Today the downtown village is a main hub for the VTA, including the well-traveled number 13 bus that runs between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown all year long, the South Beach bus that runs in the summer, buses that run routes to the airport and many others.
Will the electric bus charging station add more stress on downtown infrastructure? And is Church street really the best place for it? These are valid concerns, and it’s not clear whether alternatives were considered... From Bus Sense, ©2020, Vineyard Gazette.
These are my concerns, as well. I live on Main Street, in my childhood home on the corner of Green Avenue, and have been watching and have been troubled by the VTA buses for years - their size: way out of character for downtown Edgartown, and perhaps the whole island - not to mention they are simply too big for our small narrow streets; their frequency: as many as thirty buses an hour travel past my house during July and August; their speed: way too fast for a residential/historic neighborhood that is filled with bicyclists of all ages and experience and pedestrians during the summer; and the noise level, which can best be described as conversation-stopping. The presence of these huge VTA buses has created an ambiance that is more like being in a city rather than a historic village. The size, and speed, of the existing diesel buses is already a serious safety issue. Come sit on my porch sometime and watch how these monster buses speed past cyclists, especially on the corner of Green Avenue, where there is often a margin of only a few inches between the buses and people on bikes, and where the buses, because of their size and length, often ride right up onto the sidewalk itself at this blind corner.
This was my response to the above, Bus Sense piece:
Thank you, Gazette, for picking up on the importance of this story. And you are correct - this goes beyond the issues of shade trees. Yes, we need to reconsider this plan, and, as I have said elsewhere, it is time to rethink the Church Street terminal altogether. What started as a bus stop that accommodated much smaller buses has become a destination hub for buses from Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, South Beach, and the West Tisbury Rd./airport routes. If you look at the schedule you'll see that during the summer months, there are fifteen buses per hour that utilize the Church Street station, which adds up to approximately thirty buses per hour that travel in up and down Upper Main Street, a street that is a combination historic and residential district and is filled with pedestrians, bicyclists, and normal people just trying to live. Not only are there thirty buses per hour, but also, during the busiest times, when the queue on Church Street is full, some of the buses have to circle around the block again to find a place to park (and it’s no easy feat, maneuvering those buses on the left hand turn onto Main from Pease’s Point Way) - so how many buses is that, now? Certainly more than we bargained for, which is already too many. The buses are too loud, too big, and too fast for downtown Edgartown, and have, quite honestly, ruined the character of the town. Friends who sit on my porch on Upper Main Street are not just amazed by the frequency and size of the buses - they are shocked and appalled. Thirty an hour. All too big, too loud – belching, hissing, and roaring - and too fast. Come and sit on my porch for an hour on any day or night during July and August and you will see what I mean. And it's not just about me - these two blocks are filled with pedestrians and bicyclists, all who must be wondering how, when they thought they were visiting a quaint village, ended up on a runway at Logan Airport. It’s also a serious safety issue. From my porch you will also see bicyclists precariously close to being taken out by these behemoths. A few months ago, when the bus drivers were on strike and the service was cut way back, the absence of the monster buses on Main Street was heavenly - it felt as though Old Edgartown had returned. And while I appreciate how much quieter the electric buses are - please consider that they are even bigger than the regular diesel buses. Have you seen them, with giant painted-over windows and splashy artwork that make them look as if they belong in a big city? I recognize that there needs to be public transportation here, but at what cost? Our historic village? Our sanity? We can do better than this. Yes, the VTA’s new plan does need careful reconsideration, and this would also be an opportune time to reconsider Church Street altogether. Thank you.
I don't have a problem with electric buses, per se, and would welcome a quieter fleet, but chopping down shade trees, paving over the visitor's center, all to accommodate a fleet of even bigger buses, with technology that could be soon outdated - I have a big problem with this.
And why must every bus coming to Edgartown end up at Church Street? Many of which are empty all day long. Studies show that empty buses are not energy-efficient (see chart below). Why couldn't half of them stop at the Triangle - as only some buses on Route#1 enter Woodside Village and Hillside Village - why not give people a choice of either going all the way to Church Street, or getting off at the Triangle? I'll bet the up-town businesses would welcome the foot traffic - why does downtown Edgartown get them all? Same for West Tisbury Road?
As per my original response from the Gazette's first article, VTA to Remove Shade Trees at Edgartown Bus Terminal, dated January 2, 2020:
It is time to rethink Church Street as a VTA bus terminal. The buses are too big for the village of Edgartown, and there are too many of them. A total of 30 buses per hour travel past my house on main Street every hour during July and August. They are too big, too fast, and too loud. Come sit on my porch for an hour on any summer day or night and then tell me that you think that every route that comes to Edgartown needs to terminate on Church Street. You will be appalled by the way these monster buses have destroyed the character of our town. It is time to rethink Church Street as the main terminus for the VTA in Edgartown. At the very least, consider a terminal for the VH and OB routes at the Triangle, and one for the up Island buses near the school/library. Travelers would then have the choice to either walk a few blocks the rest of the way or board a small van to get into town if necessary. Or, bringing only half of the buses into Church Street would be a big improvement. And while the electric buses are a noble idea, they are much wider than the regular buses. Ask the drivers how they enjoy navigating Edgartown streets in the new electric buses. The answer is, they do not. It is time to rethink the VTA and the way they have taken over the island with their monster buses that are out of place here. Fewer buses mean more cars is a canard because many of the buses are empty. I am not anti public transportation but I am totally against the style of public transportation that the VTA has created, and I definitely say no to any more development of the Church Street station.
In summary, I am in favor of leaving the shade trees, beautifying the visitors' center, introducing a fleet of smaller electric buses, taking a serious look at how many buses actually have to come in to downtown Edgartown, vis-a-vis taking a closer look at the bus routes and schedules and making some creative changes that would best serve our visitors and our community.
Below: Clips gleaned from one hour's worth of video, depicting VTA bus and street activity on Main Street, Edgartown. Recorded on August 16, 2019, mid-day and is but a wee taste of what goes on here.
Below: random clips from July and August 2019. Watch the giant buses speeding through the night.