Ocean City May Drop Free Inlet Parking Time From 30 To 20 Minutes

Ocean City May Drop Free Inlet Parking Time From 30 To 20 Minutes
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OCEAN CITY — Resort transportation officials this week approved a number of recommendations to tweak the paid parking systems including an adjustment of the time frame at the Inlet lot.

Following up on an earlier discussion from December, the Transportation Committee on Tuesday resumed discussions on how best to adjust the paid parking systems at the Inlet lot, side streets and other municipal lots in Ocean City. The debate included discussions on how best to upgrade or replace existing payment methods at the Inlet and other locations throughout Ocean City.

Because of the timing, in most cases the current payment systems will remain in place for the 2017 season, but there will likely be some tweaks based on recommendations from the committee to the Mayor and Council. For example, currently the first 30 minutes for parking at the Inlet lot are free and a graduated payment schedule kicks in after.

However, after considerable debate on Tuesday, the committee recommended adjusting the time frame to make the first 20 minutes free and the payment schedule beginning in the 21st minute. The thinking is 20 minutes is sufficient for a driver to go into the lot for a brief visit and anything beyond that would initiate the paid parking.

“Under the recommendation, the hourly rate would remain the same, but the way it is calculated would be different,” said Deputy Public Works Director John Van Fossen. “Instead of 10 or 15 minute increments, the payments would be based on 20 to 30 minute increments.”

The fee from 30 minutes to 40 minutes is currently $2 with the rate increasing by $2 for each additional hour. The thinking is having the first 30 minutes for free allows some drivers to simply drive through to sightsee and look at the ocean or to pick up or drop off passengers without paying for the drive through. For those with handicap plates, the free grace period is currently 90 minutes, but Councilman Dennis Dare suggested the time free parking time frames be adjusted.

“I think it should be 20 minutes free for most vehicles and 60 minutes for those with handicap tags,” he said. “Proportionately, it’s a little off under the current system. Twenty minutes is plenty of time to drive through and look at the ocean or pick somebody up, especially with everyone carrying cell phones. For the same reason, I think 60 minutes free is plenty of time for those with handicap tags.”

After more debate, the committee voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council to reduce the time from for free parking at the Inlet lot.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.