(May 16, 2014) The sound of honking horns has finally won out over that of clip-clopping hooves.
Despite some interest in the proposal, the city’s Police Commission has turned down an ongoing request from carriage ride operator Randy Davis to run a route this summer that would see his horses traversing the island via Second Street.
“I’d suggest you continue to work on finding a different route,” said Mayor Rick Meehan, the only commission member who seemed to fully support the idea.
“I’d like to see us give it a try,” Meehan said. “Even if it’s not ideal for the department…so that you have an opportunity to see what it does.”
Davis’ proposal for summertime carriage rides would have passengers board at the east end of Second Street, next to the Boardwalk between the Ocean Gallery and Plim Plaza. The Harrison Group has offered to provide for a staging area, Davis said.
The carriage would then proceed across Second Street, using the traffic signals at Baltimore and Philadelphia Avenues, then crossing St. Louis Avenue and turning north on Chicago Avenue. The carriage would then go the length of the bayside boardwalk area, turning at Fourth Street to head back down St. Louis and back across Second Street.
The rides would run from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday evenings.
“I’m trying to cut out the big nights where traffic is always a problem,” Davis said. “It’s intended as a sunset carriage ride…people want to go see something other than hotels and condos.”
However, crossing major thoroughfares at Baltimore and Philadelphia Avenues has caused major skepticism of Davis’ proposal from the Ocean City Police Department.
“Those streets have been problematic from a historical perspective,” said OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro.
Over the past eight years, roughly 50 collisions have happened at each intersection – a significant number but, as Meehan pointed out, one not out of line with any other junction in the resort. The OCPD responded to 1,536 collisions last year.
“You and your carriage are the ones who are going to suffer significant damage in that scenario,” said Commission Chair Doug Cymek.
“[Davis’] safety record is excellent,” Meehan countered. “This is someone who’s vested in this particular business…there’s nobody he’s more concerned about than his horses.”
Still, Councilman Dennis Dare noted, the OCPD would desire to closely monitor the traffic situation during the early stages of Davis’ operation, which would likely take place in June during a time in which the OCPD already has its hands full.
“It’s one more thing that’s taking them away from everything else,” Dare said. “I just don’t like the route.”
Interestingly enough, Maryland traffic code allows for horse-drawn vehicles on any public road. The only reason Davis requires permission from the city is because he would be soliciting and conducting business on public streets – if he were simply using the roads for individual transit, he would not be subject to such oversight.
“We’re not stopping cars from crossing, and this is a vehicle just the same, only non-motorized,” Meehan said.
Davis currently provides carriage rides on the Boardwalk during the off-season, which have been well-received by visitors and elected officials.
Davis does not pay the town for the rights to offer the rides, nor does the town pay him for the amenity. With the success of the program, however, the city has expressed interest in taking bids for an income-producing carriage franchise in the near future, which could include additional routes.
“We’re at the point where it should be a franchise like umbrellas and beach photos, and probably past the point where he should be paying amusement tax,” Dare said.
But further to his point, Meehan said, “if we can establish that there’s an additional route and a revenue associated with it, it makes the franchise that much stronger.”