OCEAN CITY — Resort officials on Tuesday got their first look at a new high-capacity articulating bus, referred to as street sweepers or vacuum cleaners for their ability to absorb many more riders in a short amount of time then the traditional buses.
At Tuesday’s Transportation Committee meeting, committee members got a firsthand look at one of Ocean City two new articulating buses, which feature a traditional main bus trailed by a connected second section. Despite drizzly, damp conditions, the committee members got a brief tour of the new bus during the meeting on Tuesday.
The 60-foot buses can absorb many more passengers in a short amount of time than the traditional 40-foot buses with a capacity of around 100 passengers. With bus stops backing up during the busy summer season, the hope is the articulating buses will be able to sweep in and scoop up greater numbers of riders in a short amount of time. Mayor Rick Meehan suggested a promotional video be made to illustrate the articulating bus’s ability to quickly clear up long wait times at bus stops.
“I can envision 100 people at a bus stop and this thing pulls in and sucks them all up,” he said. “When the bus pulls away, there is nobody left standing there.”
The two articulating buses cost roughly $1.4 million and were paid for through a combination of federal and state grants with a local match. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided around 80 percent, while the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) contributed 10 percent. The town of Ocean City’s contribution also came in around 10 percent.
The two articulating buses are currently getting fitted with radios, fare boxed and other amenities. There has been an effort to wrap the new articulating buses with advertising although it has been difficult to find any takers. Earlier this winter, the new Ocean City Scream haunted house on Worcester Street expressed interest in wrapping one of the articulating buses with advertising although the Transportation Committee believed Steelhead Productions’ initial design was a little too graphic and wanted something a little more “PG-rated.”
In the weeks since, Steelhead Productions’ interest in wrapping one of the buses has waned, in part because of the requested design changes, but largely because of the financial commitment. Acting Superintendent of Transportation Wayne Pryor said the initial design for the bus wrap is around $10,000 along with a $4,000 per month fee. As a result, wrapped advertising on the new 60-foot buses has been a tough sell.
“So far, there hasn’t been a lot of interest generated,” he said. “It’s not an inexpensive proposition.”
However, the town of Ocean City has jumped in on the opportunity and is currently in the design phase. The hope is once some of the larger businesses in town see the end result, there will be renewed interest in advertising on the buses.
“They’re in the process of collecting some high resolution pictures of Ocean City landmarks,” said Pryor. “If everything works out, the bus could be wrapped and out on the street in time for Springfest.”
While finding potential advertisers for the new articulating buses has been challenging, the same cannot be said for advertising on the Boardwalk trams. Pryor said 41 of the 48 available panels have been sold with nine more proposals on the table and predicted they would sell out. The Mayor and Council approved advertising on the Boardwalk trams with some reluctance about aesthetics, but Pryor said the decision has been a profitable one.
“Advertising on the buses and trams has generated around $340,000, so it’s not a trivial amount of money,” he said. “It’s substantial, so the decision to put advertising on the buses and trams was a good one.”