Bus Driver Recruitment Efforts Called Successful

OCEAN CITY – This month the Transportation Commission reviewed several ongoing efforts in increasing the bus and tram services that have proven to be successful.

According to Public Works Director Hal Adkins, in July there were 32,000 more passengers on the buses compared to last year, and there were 424 more deployments, which is an increase of 23.3 percent. In August, the increase in deployments increased 18.8 percent with a 5.5 percent increase in ridership.

“Our goal was 20 percent,” Commission Chair Mayor Rick Meehan reported to the City Council last week regarding deployments. “We are trending in the right direction.”

According to Budget Manager Jennie Knapp, as of July 26, the bus system has brought in about $1.67 million in revenue, which is about a 1.04-percent increase from last year.

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 months leading up to summer, the Town of Ocean City attended several job fairs collecting many applications.

The commission’s goal was to have 155 seasonal drivers this summer. In 2012, there were 138 bus drivers. In 2013, there were 137 bus drivers, and in 2014, there were 120 bus drivers.

According to Operations Manager Steve Bartlett, in June there were 150 seasonal bus drivers on payroll, which decreased to 142 in August. However, this time last year there were 108 seasonal drivers on payroll.

“Our recruitment efforts worked and it is making for a better transportation system,” Meehan said. “We will continue to do that through the winter season for next year.

With the White Marlin Open coming to a close earlier this month, the commission also reviewed the ridership numbers of the White Marlin Open shuttle that travels from the Roland E. Powell Convention Center to the weigh ins at Harbour Island on 14th St. This year ridership was down 19 percent. In the future, the commission plans on having a discussion with Jim Motsko, president of the White Marlin Open, and Special Events Director Frank Miller on potentially decreasing shuttle deployments.

Adkins furthered the sales of the Boardwalk tram advertising panels for the summer netted the town $67,000. The cost to outfit those panels came to approximately $70,000, leaving a small gap to cover as far as initial expenses. The advertising net revenue in Fiscal Year 2016 is estimated at $78,000.

Discussions over expanding the Boardwalk tram advertising effort began in March at which time eight of the town’s Boardwalk tram conductor cars were equipped with tram rooftop backlit displays for both local and national advertisements of Dippin Dots, Tanger Outlets, Quitline, Department of Health and Mental Health and Casino at Ocean Downs.

Adkins asked if the commission was interested in proceeding in outfitting six additional panels to complete the tram fleet because the town’s advertising firm for transportation, Direct Media, would like to start selling those panels for next season in September.

Currently 10 of the town’s 16 Boardwalk tram passenger cars have a backlit display installed. The cost to outfit a car is about $7,200 each. The commission agreed to move forward in fabricating the remaining panels.