Resort Maintains Summer Bus Improvements A Reality

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City is reporting an enhanced bus service will hit Coastal Highway this summer.

In the beginning of the year, the Transportation Commission focused on increasing the number of bus drivers by this summer season as the town has struggled with filling driver seats in the past several years.

The commission went as far as lowering the age requirement to drive city buses and opening the opportunity to foreign students. In the past few months, the Town of Ocean City has attended several job fairs collecting many applications.

On Tuesday morning, the Transportation Commission met to receive an update on what was a concern over a bus driver shortage this summer.

According to Public Works Director Hal Adkins, in 2012 there were 138 bus drivers. In 2013, there were 137 bus drivers, and in 2014 there were 120 bus drivers. The current status on bus drivers for the 2015 summer season is there are 94 drivers returning and 94 new hires totaling 188. However, 16 of the new hires have not yet completed training, bringing the total down to 172 drivers.

“Things are looking great,” Adkins said.

However, Mayor Rick Meehan recognized it’s not the number of bus drivers that was so much the issue compared to the hours of availability.

Operations Manager Steve Bartlett presented a draft schedule for this summer that reflected 25 buses will run during the day with 32 buses running at night.

According to the schedule, there will be 490 deployments of bus drivers a week on Coastal Highway with an average of 70 per day.

The mayor asked if the schedule met the needed level of service, to which Bartlett responded, “yes.”

“That was the goal. To have you tell us the desired shifts you want to run and for us to provide you with the number of drivers to be able to run them,” Meehan said.

Adkins added now the only issue is having enough buses for the drivers to run.

“My biggest concern is no longer driver recruitment, it is now rolling stock,” he said. “We have reached out to the MTA to execute an agreement where they will run us 40 footers [buses].”

The mayor asserted that is a good problem to have.

“Increased service, more reliable service, better service will increase ridership. If people know when they go to the bus stop within a certain period of time, there will be a bus there it will increase ridership and confidence in the buses based on reliability. That is what we have been striving for,” he said.

Ocean City Police Department Captain Kevin Kirstein was also at the table to introduce the new “Bus Cop” campaign where the presence of both uniformed and plain clothed officers will have an increased presence on the buses this year. Both printed and commercial advertisements will be released soon.

“One of my major goals for the police department this summer is to improve the safety perception of the municipal bus transit system not only on the buses but on the [Boardwalk] trams as well,” Kirstein said. “Transportation asked for a certain level of service and we have found a way to give that to them this summer. You will see uniformed police officers and you will hear about plain clothes police officer teams riding the bus. We all agree some of the disorderly and assaulted behavior that we see on the buses and at bus stops is due to the fact people don’t like to be left waiting at the bus stop, so we are working on scheduling … it will be good for our drivers and our passengers, and we are looking forward to ensuring a feeling of safety.”