Committee Reviews Transit Projects

OCEAN CITY – Discussions on a strategic plan and fleet electrification highlighted an update this week on transportation projects.

On Tuesday, Transit Manager Rob Shearman presented members of the Ocean City Transportation Committee with an update on several transportation projects occurring within the resort.

He noted the first of these projects is the town’s transportation development plan. Completed by an outside consultant hired by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), the document is a five-year plan for maintaining and improving public transportation services in Ocean City.

“They outlined a number of key goals for us for the next five years,” Shearman said. “Many of them are things we are already planning on doing in terms of technology initiatives, in terms of continuing to enhance our physical facilities, our bus shelters, and other capital improvements in terms of fleet electrification and exploration and continuing to update our bus fleet.”

Officials noted the planning document included timelines for specific projects, including the transportation department’s introduction of electronic fareboxes in fiscal year 2026 and the implementation of an electric bus fleet in fiscal year 2028. When asked about fleet electrification, Shearman said he believed the development plan presented a reasonable timeline.

“If our facility study is completed at the end of this summer or maybe a year from now, there are still a couple of years where we pursue grant funding for the infrastructure improvements and for vehicle purchases,” he explained. “So I think it’s fair to say we are still several years out from actually seeing electric buses on site.”

Shearman also presented committee members this week with an update on the town’s zero-emission transition plan, the first step in the exploration of an electric bus fleet. He noted that officials will be seeking grant funding from the MTA and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to complete the study.

“The price tag is $149,000,” he explained. “However, we are expected to be on the hook for 10% of that figure, with state and federal funding covering a bulk of the rest.”

Shearman said the plan would provide a comprehensive survey of the power, infrastructure and funding needed for fleet electrification. He said the study was expected to take several months to complete.

Council Secretary Tony DeLuca noted that the transportation department had plans to seek funding in fiscal year 2025 for two new articulated diesel buses. He questioned if the purchase was wise, as such buses had an average lifespan of 14 years.

“Even if we do pursue fleet electrification, it’s not something that’s going to be instantaneous,” he said. “It’s something we will cycle in as our diesel fleet ages out. So we’re talking about a transition that will be partially diesel fleet and partially electric fleet over the course of 12 to 15 years, which is the normal life cycle for a bus.”

Officials added that the town plans to seek grant funding for the purchase of electric buses. They noted that couldn’t be done until the transition plan was complete.

“You can’t even apply for it and have an expectation to have the state and federal government fund electric buses until you’ve done the transition plan,” Public Works Director Hal Adkins said. “They won’t even talk to you.”

City Manager Terry McGean said there is also the issue of installing infrastructure for the electric fleet. He said that should be done before any electric buses are purchased.

“We don’t want to order a bus early and have it show up and we don’t have the charging infrastructure,” he said.

Shearman said the town would not want to pursue fleet electrification without some grant funding. He noted that each electric bus would cost approximately $1.5 million.

“Our next steps is to apply for the MTA and FTA grant funding to help us with the price tag of the study,” he said. “We’re optimistic that would be approved because of the direction the state wants to take with fleet electrification.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.