If you need a taxi in West Tisbury, first call the town selectmen.
That is exactly what Morgan Reitzas, the owner of MVY taxi, a new company, did and this week he emerged with a license to operate a cab service in town.
After an hour-long debate that included a vocal protest from four other taxi company owners, the West Tisbury selectmen on Wednesday agreed to give Mr. Reitzas a license to dedicate two cabs to West Tisbury customers from 7 a.m. until sunset in July and August. Calls for West Tisbury cabs will be dispatched from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, where Mr. Reitzas, who also owns Martha’s Vineyard Taxi, occupies a cab stand.
West Tisbury currently has no designated taxi stands; at one time there were apparently two stands on Music street, but now establishment of a stand is complicated by town regulations which prohibit parking within 100 feet of Vineyard Transit Authority bus stops.
“Our intent is not to add more taxis but to put current cabs to more efficient use in terms of wait time and fuel conservation,” Mr. Reitzas told selectmen, noting that waits of an hour for West Tisbury service are not uncommon. He estimated wait time would be reduced to 20 minutes under his license proposal.
Selectmen expressed some misgivings about the need for yet another Island taxi company.
“I don’t see the financial success of another taxi company. Too much competition may put someone out of business,” said chairman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter. But he also agreed with selectman Dianne Powers, who said,“Is it our job to determine whether the company will be successful or to determine whether or not there is benefit to the town?”
Opponents included representatives of Mario’s, Tisbury, Atlantic and Bluefish taxi companies. Benoit Benjamin, a driver and dispatcher for Bluefish Taxi, said there is no need for another cab company. “I’ve been working the phones for the past year and a half. There is no need for another company. We’ve had six [customer pickups] in West Tisbury in the past three months,” he said.
Chris Dacunto, owner of Tisbury Taxi, agreed. “The pieces of the pie keep getting smaller and smaller. After 14 years, I’m thinking about getting out [of the taxi business],” he said.
Mr. Benjamin said the industry faces new challenges including increased fuel costs, improved transit service and a growing number of hotels offering courtesy pickup services.
There are no hard statistics immediately available for how many cab companies exist on the Vineyard, where licensing is done on a town-by-town basis, but at the meeting Wednesday one owner said there are 16 cab companies and 19 licenses.
In other transportation business, selectmen announced that they have received a letter from the attorney for Island Transport that takes issue with a town policy banning tour busses on Music street. Selectmen said they will schedule a meeting with the attorney to discuss the dispute.
Selectmen also announced that they will meet with their fellow selectmen in West Tisbury and Aquinnah on Monday to discuss a request for proposals for a distributed antennae system that is planned among the three up-Island towns. The system is aimed at improving cellular phone service up-Island and has been endorsed by voters in all three towns. Details remain to be ironed out for an inter-municipal agreement among the three towns, as well as RFP language.
The meeting is Monday at 9 a.m. in the Chilmark town hall.