Ocean City Leaning Away From Double-Decker Buses; Officials Favor Purchasing Articulating Buses

File Photo

OCEAN CITY – After hearing a list of issues that would come along with adding double decker buses to Ocean City’s fleet, the Transportation Commission voted this week to recommend the purchase of 60-foot articulating buses instead.

A few months ago, the Transportation Commission began discussions regarding new bus purchases to meet the goal of increasing capacity and lessening drivers due to the issue of filling bus driver positions.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins explained in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 14), the Town of Ocean City was awarded a grant in the amount of $1,362,000 to purchase three, 40-foot diesel buses, and the same was awarded in FY 15 totaling $2,724,000 with a local match of 10 percent. The estimated cost for a 40-foot diesel bus is $425,000 that seats 35 with 18 standees. A 60-foot diesel artic bus is about $700,000 that seats 63 with 31 standees. The question arose if the left over funds from FY 14 can turn over to FY 15 to purchase artic buses instead as well as if the town could lease the artic buses for the summer months.

Last month Transportation Superintedent George Thornes stated

FY 14 funds can be rolled over to FY 15 to purchase two 60-foot artic buses but Thornes explained a five-year proposal should be formed for the MTA to plan into the future. Also, since there are only two artic bus manufacturers left in the country the option to lease artic buses is not in the picture.

Councilman Dennis Dare brought up the idea of adding double decker buses to Ocean City’s fleet.

“The concept of having more capacity and fewer drivers are the way we have to go. There is another alternative to the artic, I don’t know if it works for us or not, but there is a lot of modern double decker buses out there now where we wouldn’t have problem with the number of drivers…they are less expensive but the concern is the people on the second deck are not being monitored by the driver but then again they can’t monitor the back of the artic bus either,” Dare said at that time.

This week the Transportation Commission reconvened to come to a decision on bus purchases. Risk Manager Eric Langstrom, Police Captain Kevin Kirstein and Fleet Manager Ron Eckman voiced their opinion on double decker buses.

“Initially my concern is, if you have a double decker whether it is open or enclosed you have guests on the second floor and how are we going to monitor their action,” Langstrom said. “Also, there is the problem of ascending and descending the stairwells, and there would be the issue of people tripping and falling, etc.”

Langstrom furthered low hanging wires, the position of utility poles on corners where the double decker will be making turns and building overhangs on the transit stations would have to be reviewed.

“You can’t see people on the second floor of the double decker bus but you also can’t see people in the rear of a artic bus, but at least they’re all on one floor and the driver can hear and be aware of what is going on in the back,” he said. “In the years that we have had the artic buses, we haven’t had any major issues.”

Kirstein acknowledged there are pros to double decker buses, such as the capacity of passengers compared to the number of drivers.

“There is going to be a novelty factor that could increase ridership, and it would decrease over-crowding, which we believe causes some of the disorderly and assaulted behaviors,” he said. “On the con side, the bus driver would not be able to easily monitor the second level without diverting his attention from the driving. You could put a camera up there but still it’s distracting.”

Kirstein pointed out it would take hiring driver assistants to monitor the second floor.

“We would also recommend there are two different types — enclosed and open — and we would very much recommend against the open top because you can only imagine the behavior that would go on upstairs; bus surfing, jumping and throwing things,” he said.

According to Eckman, storing and servicing double decker buses at the Public Works Complex will be a challenge as the vehicle would just barley fit into the shop and could only be lifted 2.5 feet off the ground before hitting the ceiling. Other issues include training to service a double decker bus, fitting the vehicle under the awning at the present fuel station and towing in the event of a malfunction.

Councilman Tony DeLuca pointed out an artic’s capacity is 120 versus the capacity of a double decker is 83 as well as an artic costs $700,000 and a double decker costs $825,000.

“I think the artic is the way to go,” Council Secretary Mary Knight said.

The remainder of the commission was in consensus.

“Double deckers are cool but I am over it, the facts are clear,” DeLuca said.

Knight made a motion to recommend to the council to have a RFP drafted for the purchase of three, 40-foot buses to be purchased by the FY14 grant and two artic buses to be purchased by FY15 grant funds. The commission voted unanimously to approve. The purchase would be on schedule to have those buses in service by summer 2016.

Spawning Shad Attract Onlookers Near Ocean Pines Pond

BERLIN – Spawning shad created a stir in Ocean Pines this week as they struggled to reach the South Gate Pond. Drivers stopped their cars and area residents gathered around ditches leading to the South Gate Pond Monday as hundreds of gizzard shad took advantage of recent rainfall to make their way to the pond to spawn. “Instinct tells them … Continue reading

New Ownership Clarifies Lazy Lizard’s New Direction; Veteran Team Aims To Redesign Downtown Site

OCEAN CITY — With a clearer vision and a firmer concept, the new ownership and management team at de Lazy Lizard is rapidly preparing for the upcoming summer season at the iconic spot on the bay at First Street. Last week, the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners agreed to lift the liquor license suspension placed on de Lazy Lizard’s … Continue reading

No Significant Damage Reported After Boat Strikes Route 50 Bridge

OCEAN CITY — The Route 50 Bridge is none the worse for wear this week after being struck by a vessel that broke free from its moorings near the Inlet on Monday night. Around 10:30 p.m. on Monday, Coast Guard Station Ocean City was notified a 57-foot trawler-style recreational yacht and struck the Harry Kelley Bridge on the south side. … Continue reading

More Details About Proposed Worcester Sports Arena Discussed; County Undecided On Funds For Feasibility Study

SNOW HILL – While questions remain, Worcester County leaders learned more this week about the 6,200-seat sports arena a Texas company has proposed for northern Worcester County. Representatives from Hat Trick Consulting, the company that has presented plans for a minor league hockey arena, met with the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday to talk about the concept they have come up … Continue reading

Boardwalkin’ For Pets, Other Events Planned For Shelter; Adolfo’s Hosting Dinner Fundraiser

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City is going to the dogs April 24-26 for a weekend of fundraising for the Worcester County Humane Society, including the 16th Annual Boardwalkin’ for Pets event on Saturday, April 25. The weekend kicks off on Friday, April 24 at Adolfo’s on the ocean from 5-9 p.m. Advance tickets are being sold online at www.worcestercountyhumanesociety.org/boardwalkin-for-pets or … Continue reading

Parkside Students Building Structures For Offshore Reef System

OCEAN CITY — While the Ocean City Reef Foundation is in the midst of one of its biggest projects ever with tons of concrete pipes getting deployed on the various artificial reef sites off the coast, it continues to get a major contribution from an unlikely source. For about five years, Parkside High School welding teacher Biazzio “Bill” Giradano has … Continue reading

Resort Officials Frown On Armrest Dividers For Boardwalk Benches

OCEAN CITY – City officials discussed installing center armrests on benches this week to prevent individuals from sleeping on the Boardwalk. At the request of the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD), Terry Steimer of the city’s Public Works Department presented the Mayor and City Council with cost estimates to install center armrests on benches to deter extended slumbers. According to … Continue reading

Dredged Sand Finding New Home On Resort’s Inlet Beach; Black Sand No Cause For Concern

OCEAN CITY — Despite its dark, coarse appearance, the thousands of cubic yards of nearly black sand being dredged and pumped onto the beach at the Inlet this spring will naturally bleach out in the sun before the arrival of summer crowds. The Army Corps of Engineers last week began dredging federal channel around the Inlet as part of a … Continue reading

4th Annual Komen Race Weekend Returns To Ocean City

OCEAN CITY — The 4th Annual Ocean City Race for the Cure “Race Weekend” returns April 17-19, and participants are encouraged to pull out their best pink attire and celebrate spring by raising funds and awareness for breast cancer with Susan G. Komen Maryland. Race weekend kicks off on Friday, April 17 with the Concert for the Cure at Seacrets … Continue reading