Outlet Mall Shuttle Loop Eliminated

OCEAN CITY — The shuttle transporting visitors to and from the Park-and-Ride in West Ocean City will be free this summer on most days, but the route will no longer include a loop through the outlet mall.

As part of the plan to offset some of the sting of modest peak season parking rates at the Inlet, municipal lots and on the street in the downtown area, resort officials have agreed to waive the $3 shuttle fee from the Park-and-Ride in West Ocean City into and out of town. The concept is to encourage people to park for free at the Park-and-Ride and take the shuttle for free into the downtown area to enjoy the beach and Boardwalk, or to connect to the town’s municipal bus system to points further north.

It’s important to note the Park-and-Ride shuttle will be free for consumers except on certain major holidays and special events, a list that has not yet been determined. Another aspect of the changing dynamics at the Park-and-Ride is the elimination of the loop through the Tanger outlets shopping center and White Marlin Mall.

During a Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said with the near-completion of a vast hiker-bike trail along Route 50 in West Ocean City including a network of bridges, marked crosswalks and countdown clocks, for example, the loop through the outlet mall on the north side of Route 50 will be eliminated. Instead, the shuttle route will be streamlined to just loop through the Park-and-Ride and back to the downtown area.

“Our understanding is we will be terminating that route that goes to the outlets,” he said. “We will not be going to the mall. We won’t need that shelter over there and we’ll take down our signs.”

When the Park-and-Ride was developed around 20 years ago, there was no loop through the outlets and to the grocery store and other amenities on that side of Route 50. However, it soon became apparent many visitors, largely the J-1 summer seasonal workforce, were taking the shuttle to the Park-and-Ride and dashing across Route 50 to the shopping areas.

“In 2003, we expanded the route to include a mall stop,” said Adkins. “There were no crosswalks and no countdown clocks on Route 50 and there was a lot of foot traffic over there, especially with the J-1 students. It was a dangerous situation. The state just installed a $1.8 million hiker-biker trail over there and the stop at the outlet mall is no longer needed.”

Adkins said the vast majority of the shuttle users are simply trying to get back to their cars after a day at the beach or Boardwalk and often question why it loops through the shopping areas before returning to their destination.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “For a lot of our guests, they take the shuttle back across the bridge after a day at the beach or the Boardwalk and the shuttle drives right past the Park-and-Ride and goes through the outlets first. We had to answer a lot of questions and always had to explain that.”

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.