Citing a potential budget deficit of nearly $1 million for the next fiscal year, the Vineyard Transit Authority administration and advisory board voted unanimously this week to drastically reduce service for the winter season.

The service cuts and projected deficit partly reflect the aftermath of the turmoil experienced by the VTA this summer during a tense, monthlong driver strike.

The strike ended in July when a contract was reached with union drivers, but VTA administrators said the fallout will include deep cuts in winter service.

According to VTA administrator Angela Grant, the projected budget deficit for 2021 can be tracked to three factors.

First, she said the VTA lease for its operations center at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport must be renewed this year, which is expected to cost $100,000.

Second, she said the VTA insurance policy doubled this year, with an expected cost of $200,000.

Finally, due to the new contract with VTA bus drivers following the conclusion of the monthlong strike, maintaining the same level of service will cost an additional $650,000 to $700,000 — all adding up to nearly $1 million. The VTA’s total operating budget last year was about $6 million.

The changes this winter will especially affect up-Island service. Only two routes run through Chilmark and Aquinah in the off season: Routes 4 and 5. Route 4 (West Tisbury, Chilmark and Menemsha via North Road) will be suspended. And according to the VTA website, it remains “to be determined” whether Route 5 (West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah via South Road) will run consistently.

Effective Dec. 1 through March 29, there will be no service on Routes 2 (Vineyard Haven-West Tisbury via Lambert’s Cove and Old County Roads), 7 (Oak Bluffs-Airport via County and Barnes Roads), 8 (South Beach) and 9 (Oak Bluffs-Hospital-Airport via Barnes and County Roads). There will be significant reductions on Routes 3 (West Tisbury-Vineyard Haven via State Road), 5 (up-Island via South Road) and 6 (Edgartown-Airport-West Tisbury). Normal seasonal reductions will be in effect on Routes 1, 10, 10A and 13 (all are down-Island routes).

There will also be no service on Sundays, except on route 10 (Tisbury Park and Ride).

Service reductions will also take place during the shoulder season, which runs from Sept. 29 through Nov. 30, on routes 1, 7, 9 and 13, and there will be no service on routes 2, 4, 8 and 10A, the VTA said.

A complete list of the changes appears on the VTA website.

The cuts drew criticism at a meeting of the VTA advisory board held Tuesday.

“I don’t think this is fair at all,” said Carlton Crocker, community rider representative and a frequent rider of the up-Island routes.

The scope of the service reductions are unprecedented, Ms. Grant acknowledged this week. In previous years all routes have run throughout the shoulder season and into the winter with only slight reductions to service to accommodate the lighter off-season traffic.

Because 85 per cent of off-season ridership is on Routes 1, 10 and 13, “that is where we will concentrate our resources. Great care will be taken to keep the most popular departures for our year-round population,” a statement on the website said.

According to numbers issued by Ms. Grant, routes that will not run this winter would have carried about 102 people each day; adding up to almost 12,000 passenger trips throughout the course of the season. Though this is only 15 per cent of VTA ridership, it includes a significant number of people who rely on the VTA for transportation to and from work, advisory board members said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Crocker voiced concern over the impact the service reductions will have on residents. He proposed maintaining or combining some of the routes that will be cut. He said the VTA administration has “conflicting interests” that pit the seasonal community against year-round residents, such as himself and people who live along the up-Island routes that will not run in the winter months this year.

“We have a very diverse customer base and balancing all those needs is difficult,” Ms. Grant responded.

“I’m not going to pretend to say that this won’t have an impact on some people,” she continued. “But this is an exercise in trying to figure out what we can afford and what we can’t.”

Full-time drivers walked off the job on June 28 in a highly visible strike that galvanized the community, even though bus service continued to run with replacement drivers. Under a new contract ratified by the drivers on July 28, hourly wages for all drivers will increase on a scale according to seniority and other factors.

After the strike ended, Ms. Grant issued a statement that the administration would be reviewing ridership data to make a recommendation to the board on the amount of service cuts that would be necessary to keep the books balanced. The winter service reductions would trim the budget deficit by about $200,000, according to an estimate by recently-appointed Edgartown advisory board member Mark Snider.

Over the past year, the VTA has also raised fares for both single trip and full-day passes in order to generate more revenue.

Tisbury representative Elaine Miller urged the board to remember that the budget deficit is not due to the VTA drivers demanding a living wage, but to state government which does not grant adequate funding to accommodate all the needs of the public transit system.

“If we want to increase service in the winter, we will need additional funding,” Ms. Miller said. “That is the message I want to take back to my selectmen.”

In order to qualify for funding from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, however, routes must meet certain boarding criteria for numbers of passengers. Ms. Grant said none of the routes that will be closed meet the criteria, making it more difficult to obtain the funding that would keep them running.

“There are a lot of people we have to please,” she concluded. “And the state is one of them.”