Ocean City Today

Bus rider numbers drop slightly during 2017

Biggest decrease during July; future marketing aims to lure families on transit
By Greg Ellison | Jan 11, 2018
Source: File Photo

(Jan. 12, 2018) Despite registering a slight downtick, bus ridership in Ocean City in 2017 topped 2.5 million for the second year in a row.

Transit Manager Mark Rickards presented complete ridership statistics for 2017 during the Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday.

“In calendar year 2017, we finished down just one percent compared to the previous year,” he said. Ridership figures topped 2.501 million in 2017, compared to more than 2.535 million the previous year.

The largest drop-off in bus patronage occurred in July, when more than 566,000 people used transit services, which decreased five percent compared to more than 598,000 riders during July 2016.

“We can really pin it all on July, which is where we had the biggest decrease,” he said.

While the number of riders dropped by more than 33,000 in 2017, July accounted for almost all of it.

As for this year, Rickards said marketing efforts aimed at convincing families to hop the bus would be emphasized.

“We’re doing a few more deployments on the weekend and that’s the strategy for 2018,” he said. “To … focus on when ridership is good and cut back a little when ridership is going down.”

While admitting a preference for statistical increases, Rickards said, despite the brief dip in rider counts, the data still trends positively.

“To me it shows … a stabilization of ridership,” he said. “We’re kind of bucking the national trend.”

Working to be a good community partner, Rickards said during the recent blast of winter precipitation and artic temperatures more than a dozen homeless people have been provided free bus rides to and from shelters.

“Every night during the freeze we’ve had 17-18 … homeless folks we’re carrying from the south end to north end. They’re very appreciative of it.”

Looking ahead to the 2018 tourist season, Rickards said new equipment would be on the street.

“We’re counting on a good summer because we have 11 new buses coming in,” he said. “We also have the new jeeps for the trams.”

Security cameras will be factory-installed on the new buses, while the existing fleet will be retrofitted with the same gear, Rickards said.

Mayor Rick Meehan said the next emphasis should be driver recruitment.

“We do not want to fail, as far as proving the number of deployments,” he said. “We can have all of the equipment we need, but if we don’t have the drivers we fail. That is the number one priority.”

Rickards said the hiring process is underway.

“Our priority this year, especially in the tram division, is to retain some folks,” he said. “We had enough last year [but] we lost quite a few.”

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