West OC Growth Could Impact Park-And-Ride’s Future

OCEAN CITY — The changing landscape in West Ocean City with several new hotels and businesses being developed could change the dynamics of the park-and-ride facility and its impacts on the municipal bus system.

During a Transportation Committee meeting last week, the subject of the park-and-ride facility in West Ocean City and its connection to the resort’s municipal bus system came up. The park-and-ride was a joint state and local project developed on the west side of the Route 50 Bridge. As the name suggests, the park-and-ride facility encourages visitors to park at the vast complex and take the municipal bus across the bridge and into the downtown area.

Transportation Director Mark Rickards explained the park-and-ride is just one small piece of the resort’s mass transit system, but has proven to be nice amenity and contributes to the town’s bus ridership numbers.

“We get about 102,000 folks in a season,” he said. “It’s generally a pretty flat number, but it’s a very stable ridership. It’s not a big part of the overall picture, but it is very stable.”

However, with several new hotels sprouting up in West Ocean City in recent years, along with an ever-growing commercial development along the corridor, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said the park-and-ride facility could see its importance increase. Adkins suggested the town work with the tri-county’s Shore Transit system to ensure those visitors find their way to the park-and-ride and ultimately into Ocean City via the municipal bus system.

“We’ve had this discussion at the staff level,” he said “When you look at the hotel explosion on Route 50, the potential for day trippers is going up exponentially. We need to lean on Shore Transit to improve service out there.”

Adkins explained a couple of scenarios where the park-and-ride facility could be a benefit if it is connected appropriately to the county transit system.

“You’re going to see people staying out there get into their cars and drive right past the park-and-ride and into Ocean City,” he said. “Or, you’ll see people walking along the shoulder out there on their way to the park-and-ride. It’s happening already.”

On the other hand, all of those potential visitors staying in West Ocean City could drive into town and utilize the city’s paid parking system, said Mayor Rick Meehan.

“If you have 600 new hotel rooms in West Ocean City, a lot of those people will drive into town and utilize our downtown parking,” he said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

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.