Ocean City Seeking Five New Buses For Next Summer

OCEAN CITY – Months of discussion among Transportation Commission members regarding the purchase of buses to add to Ocean City’s fleet is nearing a head as the Mayor and City Council approved soliciting bids.

On Tuesday afternoon, Procurement Manager Catrice Parsons requested the Mayor and City Council’s approval to solicit proposals for three 40-foot transit buses as approved in the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget.

Parsons explained the Transportation Department requested permission from the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) to purchase 40-foot transit buses as part of the FY14 Annual Transportation Plan submission. The funding was approved. However, after unsuccessful attempts over many months of researching and dialogue with the MTA, the town was unable to find a governmental contract to “piggy back” off of for the three, 40-foot buses. The MTA then required the town to generate its own set of technical specifications.

Parsons furthered, currently the Procurement and Transportation Departments are creating a request for proposal that will be used nationally, contingent upon the MTA’s approval. These specifications will not only enable Ocean City to secure the buses that funding has been acquired for, but it will position other transit agencies to “order off of” the contract the town establishes.

Another item before the Mayor and City Council for approval is to “piggy back” off of Port Authority of Alleghany County’s RFP for the purchase of up to three, 60-foot articulating buses as approved in the FY15 Budget.

Parsons explained, as part of the FY15 Annual Transportation Plan submission, the Transportation Department requested the MTA’s permission to purchase 40-foot transit buses, which was approved. However, after dialogue with the Transportation Committee, the need for 60-foot articulating buses was established.

The Transportation Department took this request back to the MTA, who supported converting FY15 funding for the 40-foot buses.

Parsons furthered, the Transportation Department learned that the Port Authority contract has a “piggy back” clause and the city gained approval to be assigned to that contract.

The council voted unanimously to approve both the solicitations of bids for the three 40-foot buses, as well as to “piggy back” off of Port Authority’s RFP to solicit proposals for up to three, 60-foot articulating buses.

Discussion among the Transportation Commission regarding new bus purchases to meet the goal of increasing capacity and lessening driver dependency due to the issue of bus driver shortages started earlier this year.

At that time Public Works Director Hal Adkins explained in FY14 the town was awarded a grant in the amount of $1,362,000 to purchase three, 40-foot diesel buses, and the same was awarded in FY15 totaling $2,724,000 with a local match of 10 percent. The estimated cost for a 40-foot diesel bus is $425,000 that seats 35 with 18 standees. A 60-foot diesel articulating bus is about $700,000 that seats 63 with 31 standees.

The commission even considered the thought of adding double decker buses to the fleet. After some research, Risk Manager Eric Langstrom expressed concern over surveillance on the second floor as well as issues that may arise with ascending and descending stairs.

Langstrom furthered low hanging wires, the position of utility poles on corners where the double decker will be making turns and building overhangs on the transit stations would have to be reviewed.

Ocean City Police Department Capt. Kevin Kirstein acknowledged there are pros to double decker buses, such as the novelty factor, but the Town would have to hire security for the second floor.

Fleet Manager Ron Eckman added, storing and servicing double decker buses at the Public Works Complex will be a challenge as the vehicle would just barley fit into the shop and could only be lifted 2.5 feet off the ground before hitting the ceiling. Other issues included training to service a double decker bus, fitting the vehicle under the awning at the present fuel station and towing in the event of a malfunction.

The commission voted to have a RFP drafted for the purchase of three, 40-foot buses to be purchased by the FY14 grant and two artic buses to be purchased by FY15 grant funds.