OCEAN CITY – A resident stood up this week for senior citizens’ rights to ride the Boardwalk tram for free.
“I’m here to represent the majority or maybe all of the senior citizens in Ocean City,” Ocean City resident Jerry Albright said.
Albright asserted that senior citizens who are residents of Ocean City should have the right to ride the tram on the Boardwalk for free. He said a large amount of senior citizens are not able to walk a mile or two of the Boardwalk as well as are on a fixed income.
“They just can’t afford to lay out the money to go down to the action end of the Boardwalk,” he said. “I don’t think the city of Ocean City has to make money off of their senior citizens.’
Albright asked the Mayor and Council members to set a motion and a second to allow senior citizens to ride the tram for free.
“Let’s vote on restoring the privileges to our senior citizens so they can ride the tram so they can enjoy this beautiful city,” he said. “It’s very important that we take a vote because when election time comes around the voting citizens, 35 percent of which are senior citizens, will want to know who’s in favor of the senior citizens and who just wants to make money off them.”
Councilman Brent Ashley supported Albright’s argument. He said that before he was voted onto the council he remembered when senior citizens privileges were being taken away by council.
“I have talked to my colleagues since that time and I see their point but I think they’re [senior citizens] entitled to ride that tram for free,” Ashley said.
City Manager Dennis Dare explained the previous policy surrounding senior citizens riding the tram for free was never actually authorized by the council.
“In the beginning, there was a card available for Ocean City residents at the age of 60 to ride the bus for free and then some time ago somebody starting allowing that treatment to be used on the tram,” Dare said. “It was just some workers on the tram that started allowing it and it became common use.”
Dare said that since then the city restricted the use of the tram for the people holding the bus card to off hours so that during the peak times, or the evenings, and during festivals the city could recognize the revenue generated from the general public using the tram.
“Within the last two years, we have made a lot of decisions, tough decisions, to try and reduce our costs and increase our revenue,” he said.
Albright continued his argument by saying the city belongs to the citizens. He also pointed out that the time citizens want to use the tram is during the prime hours.
“The main point is you have citizens of Ocean City that pay taxes, who vote, and you gave them privileges and then you take them away,” he said.
Council President Jim Hall said that the issue can be fixed, but it becomes difficult when the senior citizens approach the council and advise them to hold the tax rate and cut back spending. Dare then pointed out that when the ridership is up because the public is using it that is a significant fare increase.
Albright asserted that it is seldom the tram is full and Ashley agreed.
“I just don’t see where they are taking up that much room, it’s not empty but it’s not full,’ Ashley said.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said the tram isn’t there for transportation purposes but for an amusement. She said it is used to create revenue.
“This is really made to break even as a tour bus and that’s why they can get on the bus for free, an air-conditioned bus during the day, during the night and get off at the rides and just walk one street,” she said.
The council agreed to schedule the matter for a future discussion to review the numbers in the ridership of the tram as well the costs associated before making any decisions.