(April 18, 2014) Although it will not affect the program for the coming season, City Council voted unanimously at a budget hearing last week to begin charging $5 for week-long bus passes during the 2015 Play it Safe program.
Play it Safe, which provides secure and substance-free activities for high school graduates during June, has traditionally given away week-long bus pass wristbands at its events.
But city officials contended that charging a nominal fee for the wristbands would not only help the city cover its costs, but likely reduce the prevalence of joyriders and rowdy behavior on city buses.
“I think it’ll be less of an incentive for people to pile on and ride up and down town as a ‘party bus,’ rather than a means of transportation,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.
“It’ll help reduce the problems but it still provides a safety net, so if a parent wants to make sure their son or daughter has transportation while they’re here, that cost is still only $5.”
According to city Public Works Director Hal Adkins, Play it Safe gave out roughly 7,000 wristbands last year, creating a potential $35,000 in revenue. However, Adkins said his estimate was that roughly half of those who took wristbands previously would still do so if a cost was involved.
The $17,500 in anticipated revenue could be split, Meehan suggested, between the Play it Safe committee for the development of new events, and the Ocean City Police Department to help alleviate the cost of stationing officers on buses.
“We pay $30,100 dollars for the OCPD to be on our buses. Most of that coverage is in June, I suspect,” said Councilman Joe Mitrecic.
This would divide out to $4.30 per wristband in order to break even on security costs, Mitrecic noted.
Since fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30, a change in policy for June of the 2014-2015 fiscal year would not actually take effect until next summer. Wristbands for the June 2014 Play it Safe program will continue to be free.
Adkins noted that the city’s transportation department had already developed a plan to sell the wristbands some years ago, although the council at the time did not go through with it. Wristbands would be sold at the tram stations at the north and south ends of the Boardwalk, and council suggested that Adkins also have sales at the Boardwalk information booths at Caroline Street as well as at other city offices.
Mitrecic also suggested that voucher coupons be issued at the Play it Safe events, so that only those participating in the program would be eligible to purchase a wristband.
“That would be their ID to get a wristband…instead of checking student IDs or driver’s licenses,” Mitrecic said.
“It takes the burden of proof of the transportation department,” agreed Council President Lloyd Martin