Altered Tram Operation Headed To Approval For Season

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week approved on first reading an ordinance to alter the Boardwalk tram route and ultimately displace a street performer location.

The Mayor and Council had before them on Monday a proposed ordinance that would allow the tram to enter and exit the Boardwalk at the existing ramp at 3rd Street. Because of the new tram operation, the street end at 3rd Street would be off limits to street performers, under the ordinance. The council unanimously approved the ordinance on first reading.

Two years ago, the town completed a new public works facility along St. Louis Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets, for the purpose of, among other things, relocating the Boardwalk tram operation. Under the new plan, the trams are being stored and maintained at the St. Louis Avenue facility, and when they are in operation, they will cross Philadelphia Avenue and Baltimore Avenue and access the Boardwalk at the ramp at 3rd Street before starting their daily runs up and down from the Inlet to 27th Street.

For years, the tram operation was housed at the town’s Whiteside facility in the south end of Ocean City and the trams entered and exited the Boardwalk at South 1st Street. That procedure has now changed with completion of the new facility at St. Louis Avenue.

A byproduct of the altered tram operation is the displacement of a street performer location at the end of 3rd Street and the Boardwalk. Over the last couple of years, street performers have successfully challenged the town’s old designated spaces program and lottery system on First Amendment grounds and freedom of expression.

As a result, street performers have had unfettered access to the street ends on the Boardwalk from South 1st Street to 9th Street with a couple of exceptions. North Division Street and Dorchester Street have remained off limits to performers because they are important Boardwalk access points for law enforcement, fire, ambulance and other emergency services, and the Beach Patrol, for example.

The ordinance approved on first reading on Monday adds 3rd Street to the list of areas off limits to buskers. Making 3rd Street the new access point for the trams and eliminating the space for street performers required a code change, which the ordinance presented on Monday will accomplish. The council voted 7-0 to approve the ordinance change on first reading.

The trams did not run last year because of COVID restrictions, making this the first year for the new set-up. The trams are set to start running on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

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.