Ocean City Today

OC Council considers Jeeps to pull new trams

By Katie Tabeling | Nov 16, 2017

(Nov. 17, 2017) Ocean City is looking to scrap the two tram bids on the table, and once again seek proposals to replace the eight aging trams. But this time, resort officials are only asking for 16 passenger cars and no motorized cars to pull them.

Instead, the City Council informally agreed that eight Jeep Wranglers can pull the passenger cars on the Boardwalk - and potentially slashing the cost in half.

Earlier this week, Councilman Wayne Hartman opened a discussion on whether to stop design work on the Second Street tram storage facility, as the council “did not know what they’re doing” with the two tram bids.

“I don’t want to lock ourselves into a tram facility and not have the flexibility of saving money and increasing capacity with better pull,” he said during Tuesday’s work session. “[Jeeps] are a cheaper than a tug vehicle, and if we can increase capacity and see if it’s profitable, then we should consider adding another passenger car.”

Today, each gas tug vehicle pulls two tram passenger cars, seating approximately 76 people. In 1991, the resort did use Jeeps to pull three passenger cars, although the conductors often complained of visibility issues.

Hartman pointed out that discussion on replacing the trams had been sequestered in Transportation Commission meetings until the bids went out this summer.

“It’s another problem we have with the committee system, things aren’t well-vetted anymore and we don’t have the dialogue we have here,” he said. “If we design a building and the trams don’t fit, building an obsolete building with taxpayer money doesn’t make sense.”

The motion to stop design work on the Second Street facility failed 2-4, with Council President Lloyd Martin, Council Secretary Mary Knight, Councilmen Matt James and Tony DeLuca voting in opposition. Councilman John Gehrig was absent.

Public Works Hal Adkins returned with answers about the tram replacement during Wednesday’s capital improvement planning session.

“We’ve said that the replacement trams could cost between $2-4 million, and I asked the vendors to break down that cost,” he said. “The custom motor coaches are $100,000 to $150,000, versus a Jeep at $50,000.”

He also recommended re-bidding the passenger cars with specifications for benches, instead of the current trams’ individualized seats, and conductor platforms this spring.

That would raise tram capacity to approximately 85 people, with two cars. Adkins did not recommend putting a third car on the trams for safety reasons, as that would make the entire vehicle 90 feet long.

“The logic behind that idea was to go from eight trams to six, and I would caution against that,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “I think the demand would be absorbed by the extra seats, and at night we often need all eight trams out there.”

As a bonus, the Jeeps could later be used for Beach Patrol. However, the downside is that the vehicle would need to be fitted with larger rear and side mirrors.

Adkins said that the council could buy the Jeeps for next summer, but the 17-year-old fleet could operate one more season.

“The need is not extreme yet, but you could buy the jeeps and use them, and cannibalize the current tug [vehicles] for parts,” he said.

Although no formal vote was taken, the council agreed with Adkins’s and City Manager Doug Miller plan to re-bid the project.

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