OCEAN CITY – Resort officials are hoping Fourth of July beach-goers will enjoy their day on the beach and Boardwalk and hang out for the fireworks without having to worry about beating the meter with the new option to pay a $50 flat fee at the Inlet parking lot.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">
On Thursday, July 4, the Town of Ocean City will be charging a $50 fee for all-day parking in the Inlet parking lot. The fee is good for one entry and will allow visitors to come as early as 5 a.m. and stay as late as midnight, without being charged an hourly parking rate.
“We hope the new flat fee parking will allow our visitors to be more flexible during their trip to Ocean City on July 4,” said John VanFossen, Deputy Director of Public Works. “We think this will not only allow visitors the opportunity to come to Ocean City early and stay late, but it will also smooth the amount of traffic exiting the downtown area after the fireworks.”
The decision to charge a flat-rate fee in the Inlet lot on Fourth of July was made by the Mayor and City Council back in April during a budget session. However, after receiving major backlash once the flat fee reminder was announced over social media, the town wants to make clear the decision was based on convenience rather than revenue.
“When the decision was made to make this change, we knew this wasn’t going to be the option for everyone but we were looking for a way to ease traffic congestion on Baltimore Ave., and make it easier for people when they are leaving the Inlet,” Communications Manager Jessica Waters said.
Waters explained the town has received complaints from those who park in the Inlet parking lot to watch the fireworks but end up paying the most waiting in traffic to leave as one car is allowed to exit at a time through the ticket-and-pay process.
Waters added for those who do choose to pay the flat fee, they will feel no such rush to get in their cars and leave after the fireworks. Instead, they can enjoy the Boardwalk a little while longer while waiting for traffic to thin out.
“As you can imagine, it can be a lengthy process for 1,200 cars,” Waters said. “We are thinking it would help from having everyone leave at the same time. When you’re not on the meter, you are not rushing to get out of the parking lot.”
The fireworks are scheduled to go off at 9:30 the evening of July 4, Waters pointed out, so for the family planning to spend the day at the beach, have dinner on the Boardwalk and stay to watch the fireworks, the $50 flat fee to park in the Inlet lot all day is the way to go, according to the town.
For instance, city officials point to math to bolster that claim. With Fourth of July falling on a Thursday, the town charges $2.50 per hour on weekdays to park in the Inlet parking lot, and 5 a.m. until midnight covers a 19-hour period. Without the $50 flat-fee, those who choose to park in the Inlet lot would be charged $47.50 to park over that span of time. With that long a stretch unlikely for most, a more reasonable example may be 10 a.m. to midnight (14 hours) and that would equal $35.
“For the convenience, it will outweigh the costs,” Waters said. “There is a misconception, and why people are getting upset is that they think it was done for revenue purposes but it was not … it was a decision that was made to improve operations for our visitors and hopefully make traffic flow a little smoother, and avoid having people pay for time they are waiting in traffic … the good news is we have multiple options for parking.”
For visitors who don’t think the flat-fee parking in the Inlet lot is for them, Ocean City offers additional lots and street parking that utilizes the Cale parking system or they can find free parking on some streets. Municipal lots are in effect 24 hours per day and street parking is in effect 7 a.m. until midnight.
Municipal lots are located on Worcester Street, Somerset Street, Dorchester Street, North Division Street, 4th Street and the West Ocean City Park & Ride.
During last spring’s budget talks, it was pointed out some private lots in the downtown area have been charging as much as $50 for a space for just the night for some time.