OCEAN CITY — After considerable back-and-forth debate over the last few months, resort officials this week officially put the Boardwalk trams back in the garage for the summer season.
Back in May, with Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home and other directives still in place, the Ocean City Transportation Committee debated the merits of running the Boardwalk tram at all this summer, regardless of what stage of the state’s recovery plan had been reached. It was quite literally a million-dollar question as the committee had to weigh the balance of social distancing and public safety against significant revenue losses for shutting down the quaint feature on the Boardwalk for generations.
The debate continued in June as Maryland moved from stage one to stage two of the recovery plan and more and more of the restrictions were relaxed. The thinking at that time was training could begin in mid-June and the tram service could resume around the beginning of July and still salvage the peak months of the summer season.
However, still uneasy about the ability to achieve social distancing on the tram itself, along with the forcing of people on the Boardwalk together as the tram passes had the committee postponing any decision for another month. Last week, the transportation voted to forward to the full Mayor and Council a recommendation to suspend the Boardwalk tram operation for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Mayor Rick Meehan outlined the committee’s reasoning behind the unfavorable recommendation for running the Boardwalk tram this summer.
“The recommendation is to suspend the tram operation for the 2020 season,” he said. “We considered social distancing concerns, the wearing of masks and the potential for the tram to push people on the Boardwalk together. It’s up to the council, but that’s the recommendation.”
The council voted unanimously to follow the committee’s recommendation and suspend the tram operation.
Councilman John Gehrig said he had mixed feelings about the decision, but ultimately it came down to the safety of the staff.
“I was generally in favor of running the tram,” he said. “It’s basically an amusement and the other amusements are up and running. My biggest concern is having our tram drivers enforcing masks. I’m not sure we want to put our people in a hostile situation, but that’s where we are right now with the mask issue.”