OCEAN CITY — Resort transportation officials this week debated the return of the Boardwalk trams this summer after being put on the shelf last year and the plan is for the popular service to back up and running.
The Transportation Committee on Tuesday held a discussion on a plan to bring back the Boardwalk trams. The trams were discontinued entirely last summer for a variety of reasons related to COVID. Early on, the governor’s restrictions on mass transit and amusements, for example, made operating the Boardwalk tram impractical.
As some of the restrictions were eased as the state went through some of the early stages of its recovery plan, resort officials considered bringing back the Boardwalk trams at different points through the early summer. However, the tram service was fraught with challenges. Short of removing seats or benches, social distancing would have been difficult. Another concern raised was the crowding the trams cause on the Boardwalk when it rolls through large groups of pedestrians.
Finally, by mid-summer, the Mayor and Council voted to discontinue the service for the summer. On Tuesday, the transportation committee debated if and when to bring it back this summer. Operations Manager Steve Bartlett said he was moving forward almost as if it was going to be business as usual.
“I’m going back to the hiring numbers for 2019,” he said. “I believe we’re going to be slower. I don’t think we’ll do much with the tram until after July 1. June has always been that way.”
Bartlett said he will need 25 drivers and 25 conductors along with supervisors to get the tram operation up and running again. He said he was confident he would get those numbers before the Boardwalk tram operation really gets rolling for the season.
“I will have the full complement ready to go,” he said. “The plan is to ramp up deployments in July. If the patrons are there and they want to ride the tram, we’re going to carry them.”
When asked if he had returning tram drivers and conductors lined up, Bartlett said most have indicated they want to return and many are chomping at the bit to get back to it.
“From my conversations, we might get 90% back,” he said. “People have missed an entire season. They aren’t happy, not because of the decision made, because it was the right thing to do, but not happy because they missed a summer of work.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said the town will take all the necessary precautions with mask requirements and appropriate spacing where practical, but he fully anticipated the Boardwalk tram will be up and running this summer.
“We are still going to have mask requirements on the trams,” he said. “We did what we had to do in 2020 for all the right reasons. As long as people are wearing masks, they can make their own decisions about the level of safe distancing they are comfortable with.”
Bartlett said if the town was comfortable with restoring the Boardwalk tram service this summer, his crews will be ready.
“My plan is to start the Friday before Memorial Day as if it were a normal year,” he said. “There might be lighter deployments, there might not be service on Springfest, but we’ll be ready to go.”
A motion was approved to forward a favorable recommendation to the full Mayor and Council for a planned start to the Boardwalk tram season on the Friday before Memorial Day.