Solid Bus Shuttle Use For White Marlin Open

OCEAN CITY — A review of the municipal bus shuttle service to the White Marlin Open revealed the numbers warrant keeping the program intact in future years.

During the first full week of August, the Town of Ocean City offers a municipal bus shuttle park-and-ride operation from the convention center to the White Marlin Open centered in the Harbour Island community on the bayside at 14th Street. The buses run every 20 minutes from 3 p.m. to around 10 p.m., shuttling enthusiasts to the venue where public parking is often challenging.

During last Tuesday’s Transportation Committee meeting, members reviewed some of the ridership totals to determine if the park-and-ride shuttle service was still valid. Shuttle riders are still subject to the same fees charged for regular municipal bus service, but the program does take two buses out of the regular rotation for several hours a day during each of the five days of the popular tournament, causing transportation officials to consider if the program is worth continuing.

However, a review of the statistics reveals the program is fairly popular and well-utilized. For example, a total of 1,224 riders took the shuttle this year, down from 1,399 in 2016.

Of course, it goes without saying the service is largely weather dependent and the numbers bear that out. For example, just 52 riders used the service on Monday of marlin week this year, which featured torrential rains and a pop-up severe storm. Similarly, just 126 riders used the service on Tuesday this year, which was also marked by showers and thunderstorms. However, on Wednesday of the tournament this year, 383 riders used the service, representing the highest single-day total since the inception of the program.

Mayor Rick Meehan said the numbers suggest the program continues to be valid.

“I’m surprised the numbers are so high, frankly,” he said. “I think the park-and-ride concept is a good one and these numbers suggest we should keep it in place.”

Transportation Director Mark Rickards agreed it was somewhat hit or miss with the program largely dependent on the weather and the time of day.

“There were some trips when nobody was on the buses, and there are trips when it is standing room only,” he said.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins agreed the shuttle service was worth keeping after reviewing the ridership totals.

“I thought we’d see the numbers dwindling,” he said. “That’s simply not the case.”

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.