Despite a bus driver shortage that has plagued the resort since the start of the pandemic, motorcyclists flocking to Ocean City this weekend will have the option of public transportation when they put their hogs to bed and go out on the town.
However the number of buses, and the service guarantee, are not what they used to be.
“Generally, what we did was we said the bus deployments would be substantially reduced and then maybe substantially was not the [word],” Transportation Manager Steve Bartlett said this week of the language included in the agreement with OC BikeFest organizers regarding transportation assurances.
“The tram service would be substantially reduced and the bus service would be mildly reduced,” he continued. “They didn’t have any problem with it at all.”
In 2019, Bartlett said the number of buses deployed for BikeFest weekend, which at the time only ran from Thursday to Sunday, was between 44 and 49 each day. This year, the department planned for 25 buses on the road Wednesday and Thursday, 26 on Friday, 30 on Saturday, and 20 on Sunday.
While the numbers are reduced, and large crowds are expected, Bartlett said he does not anticipate any issues with getting everyone transported, and said the schedule is staggered to ensure more buses on the road during peak times.
“This still represents between 10- and 15-minute service in most cases. It will be better than 10-minute service for the majority of the day,” Bartlett explained. “It’s all about volume. If the traffic is with us and we can move up and down the highway, then we’ll be fine. It’s when we get those bottlenecks getting to the south, or the bottlenecks getting out of the south.”
The Boardwalk trams will also run this weekend, with four to five out each day from 2 to 10 p.m. The people-movers have also experienced significant struggles this year due to a shortage of drivers and conductors, but Bartlett said they should be able to close out the season without any huge gaps.
“I think we’re doing good,” he said. “We’re open this weekend, we’re closed next weekend — that’s the standard, it’s been that way for years — we’ll come back for Sunfest and then we’re done for the season with the trams.”
City Manager Doug Miller has been tasked to come up with a plan during the off-season to recruit more tram drivers before the start of the 2022 season so officials do not run into the same issues as they did this summer.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said this week that no new information has been reported on the recruitment of tram drivers since transportation committee members discussed it at their last meeting in mid-August.