Downtown Bus Stop Expansion Moves Forward

OCEAN CITY – A compromise was made this week to have an overcrowded bus stop on Somerset St. expanded to accommodate increasing crowds.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins brought forward a request this week to expand a bus stop located on Somerset Street between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues.

According to Adkins, in an effort to address a few privately owned and operated transit buses from the Francis Scott Key Motel, Frontier Town Campground, and the Castaways Campground, the town established a bus stop for their use near the corner of Somerset Street and Baltimore Ave.

The bus stop at Somerset Street has become extremely successful and is now handling over 2,000 passengers on a daily basis in the summer. The volume of the passengers waiting and discharging from buses has caused challenges for the bus stop as the visitors are overcrowding the area.

Before the summer of 2013 arrives, Adkins proposed modifications to the bus stop. He pointed out an expanded bus stop would create a larger waiting area for both the passengers and their beach accessories as well as reduce the potential of having the sidewalk blocked for use by the general public.

The new configuration of the expansion would allow access to the bus stop from Baltimore Ave. that would eliminate the conflict of passengers exiting the bus into a waiting crowd wishing to enter the bus.

In order to make the improvements, two parking spaces will be lost in the adjoining municipal parking lot. According to historical revenue for that parking lot, Adkins projected about $3,000 would be lost in revenue by removing those two spaces.

Before the council voted to spend $10,000 in expanding the stop, Councilman Dennis Dare questioned if the three private businesses have attempted to stagger the bus pickup and drop-off times to eliminate crowding at the bus stop.

Superintendent of Transportation George Thornes responded next summer will be the third season the bus stop has been dedicated to the three companies and that every season he reminds them to send in one bus at a time but no particular time has ever been dictated.

“We haven’t had any incidents or complaints there, and we are trying to keep it down to one bus at a time,” Thornes said.

Councilman Joe Mitrecic made a motion to approve the request to expand the bus stop.

“The good thing is it is a success and we are facing the issue with it being overcrowded, we are getting people in the downtown, they are walking the Boardwalk, they are going to the beach … so I would say the lost revenue is certainly something to look at but in the long run it helps the merchants in town so I would hope that we move forward with this,” he said.

Dare suggested instead of removing two parking spaces to only take away the one that abuts to the corner of Somerset St. and Baltimore Ave. and leave the bus stop shelter where it is. This would reduce the $10,000 cost and cut the loss in revenue in half.

“I know part of this is because of the congestion on the street corner but where you have the issues that would still allow pedestrian flow through there,” he said.

The council and staff were in consensus with Dare’s compromise and voted unanimously to approve the suggestion.