OC Council News In Brief

OCEAN CITY – In “the brief” this week, we are talking transportation, stimulus money recently granted to Ocean City to enhance transportation as a whole, some of the particular projects that will help improve said transportation, and even about a committee that will be created to repair an inefficiency in one service offered in the realm of transportation.

Committee To Study Transit

Ninety-year-old Bob Melvin has been pleading in one way or another for the better part of two years to town officials to figure out a way to make his trip to the doctor’s office in Berlin less off an all-day affair.

Currently, Melvin must ride the ADA bus to the south end of town, switch to a Shore Transit-operated bus and travel the remainder of the eight-mile trip to his physician’s office. Melvin says the round trip routinely takes upwards of four hours.

In efforts to help find some closure to the situation and perhaps spearheaded by a letter received by Melvin from the Maryland Transit Authority, Public Works Director Hal Adkins requested to be granted permission from City Council to create a seven-person committee to find a way to alter the inefficient service.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas was nominated by the Ocean City Council to join Adkins, Department of Transportation Superintendent George Thornes, a member of the Worcester County Commissioners and two representatives from Shore Transit to try to figure out a way to perhaps disperse the funding in the most efficient way to provide the best service to Melvin and other handicapped residents of Ocean City.

Melvin received a letter from the MTA’s new regional planner Tracy Perez on March 5 saying that Ocean City would have to go through the county to ask for the funding from the Statewide Special Transportation Assistance Program (SSTAP).

Currently, the MTA allots the money to the county, who awards the SSTAP money to Shore Transit, who handles the curb-to-curb handicapped service all over the county.

This year, Shore Transit received $362,015 in total SSTAP grants, of which they paid a $93,000 share of the grant itself to fund the program, which does not come into the city limits of Ocean City for the curb-to-curb service.

The committee will try to come to an agreement about what to do with the grant money and who should operate the service to provide the best mode of transportation for the area’s handicapped riders.

“It is my hope to bring some sort of closure to this issue without overstepping my boundaries as a ‘staffer’ across political lines,” said Adkins. “That’s why I’m asking for this committee to be created.”

$1.85M In Stimulus Money Headed To Resort

Adkins also reported that the town’s transportation department would receive $1.85 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help improve the resort’s transit system.

“This is 100 percent money with no local match from the town,” said Adkins.

The money will apparently be used on a number of items including new electronic LED signs to be placed at the transit stations on the north and south end of town and one at the West Ocean City park and ride terminal as well.

The largest part of the grant money will be used for four, 40-foot replacement buses to the town’s fleet each totaling $316,000 a piece, according to Adkins.

Swipe Your Card To Pay Your Fare?

More than likely, you won’t see it until the summer of 2010, but soon, you might be able to use a credit card to pay for your bus fare in Ocean City.

According to Hal Adkins, $100,000 has been allotted from the economic stimulus grant for a pilot program that the MTA has asked the town of Ocean City to develop involving electronic fare-boxes on city buses.

“The MTA approached us several years ago with $990,000 in hand and wanted to employ a system-wide fare-box system,” said Adkins. “So this kind of falls under the ‘been there, done that’ category because I had concerns then and I have concerns now.”

Adkins hinted that the pilot program would be used on the park-and-ride buses rather than the town buses initially, but noted that by the time the money comes in October, the season will be over and the park-and-ride will be closed for the season.

“This is going to put me in a bit of a dilemma,” said Adkins, “but we might be able to expend the money and put the manufacturing people to work to fabricate the devices, but we won’t be able to run them as a guinea pig until the summer of 2010.”

Meehan suggested that Adkins try out the system once it’s developed on the town’s bus fleet in the winter and spring months next year and wanted to make sure that the new venture would stay current in the ever changing world of electronic payments.

“If we are going to move forward with this, then we should move forward like the rest of the world is, and program these to take credit, debit, and smart cards,” said Meehan, “and if they can’t, we will just be behind and we’ll have to get new machines anyway. Everything is moving in that direction.”

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