OCEAN CITY – Ocean City residents may or may not be fazed by the one dollar increase in an all-day bus pass, but only time can tell how summer time visitors may react.
In December of last year, the Mayor and City Council voted to increase the Ocean City bus fare for its ride-all-day pass. Starting Monday, Feb. 28, the new fare structure will begin increasing the current fare which is set at a $2 ride-all-day rate.
The new bus fare will increase to a $3 ride-all-day pass, and riders will also have an option to pay a $1 fare for a one-way ride.
Coupon books that contain 20 bus tickets will be available at $15 per book, $250 for 20 books, $600 for 50 books and $1,125 for 100 books. The town hopes to increase the amount of coupon books available in Ocean City’s retail stores.
Ocean City resident Scott Compton, who works at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel, rides the bus at least three times a week to work and opts to purchase the coupon books to get him through the busy summer season.
“Most of the time I buy the coupon book because it’s cheaper,” Compton said. “We save a lot of money that way.”
Ocean City resident Chris Littleton, who rides the bus regularly to and from work at Seacrets, sees both sides in the increase of the all-day-pass, and the option to purchase a one-way fare.
Littleton pointed out that for locals the increase in the all-day-pass may not make a difference.
“When they changed the prices, they made sure it wouldn’t affect people that use it [bus] to travel to and from work because it is still a dollar each way,” he said.
Littleton also thinks the $1 raise in the all-day-pass is primarily impact summer visitors.
“They’re [visitors] riding the buses around more,” he said. “What they’re [the town] trying to say is it is only going to affect the people that come from out of town, the tourists, and that’s the money we want. So I can see it has its pros and cons.”
On Thursday, Public Works Director Hal Adkins explained the reasoning behind the determination of the bus fares.
“We tried to come up with a fare structure that would address the revenue needs to run the bus system in the first place, but at the same time create a degree of flexibility to the user that basically everybody would be happy with a win-win situation,” he said.
Adkins said that the new $3 all-day-pass is still a great bargain.
“When you look at it compared to a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a ride on a roller coaster, or a funnel cake, when you start putting it into perspective…and use that bus all day it’s an unbelievable deal,” he said.
Adkins said that those who might react negatively to the increase in the all-day-pass would be those who only need to ride the bus to and from a destination.
“If you dissect it, that group might be the person that was only going to ride downtown to the Boardwalk and then get back on and go home for the night,” he said. “By offering the alternative fare of $1 per boarding, it won’t affect them at all.”
In January, the Mayor and City Council also voted to re-instate the policy regarding the fare for children.
At that time, the Superintendent of Transportation George Thornes explained that the policy in the past was children less than 42 inches of height rode for free. That rule was discontinued at one point allowing all children to ride for free creating confusion among the bus drivers, and resulting in complaints from riders.
“We had a long standing policy to allow a child to board the bus if they were less than 42 inches in height, we would allow them to board the bus free of charge,” Adkins said on Thursday. “When you go back trying to look for a formal policy approved by the Mayor and Council that allowed that, we couldn’t find such a policy.”
The shuttle that transits riders between West Ocean City Park and Ride to downtown will remain a $1 ride all day when the operations begin in May.