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Ocean City

Somerset bus stop to be expanded to accommodate summer traffic

(Jan. 18, 2013) The City Council moved for a compromise decision this week on the expansion of the Somerset Street bus stop, an issue that presented a choice between an easily definable benefit to the resort and a more esoteric one.

The stop, which features the usual glass shelter found at all municipal bus waypoints, was actually designated by the city three years ago for use by private buses. Specifically, three major off-island accommodations and attractions — the Francis Scott Key, Castaways’ Campground, and Frontier Town — have been instructed by the city to use the stop as a drop-off and pick-up for their shuttle buses that ferry patrons to and from the resort.

Besides helping to reduce traffic congestion, the stop also serves to promote the pedestrian plaza on Somerset Street east of Baltimore Avenue. The plaza was built by the Ocean City Development Corporation — the city-backed nonprofit organization that sponsors downtown redevelopment — as a catalyst for off-Boardwalk retail growth.

The shortest way to get to the Boardwalk from the Somerset Street bus stop is to walk through the plaza, thus creating valuable foot traffic.

“It has benefitted OCDC, it has benefitted Somerset Plaza, and we’ve gotten no complaints from the surrounding area,” city Public Works Director Hal Adkins said during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We would like the opportunity,” Adkins continued, “to expand the site prior to this summer season in order to avoid what you see in this picture.”

His example photograph of what the station often looks like in the summer showed patrons crowded on the sidewalk and spilling into the street. A proposed expansion would increase the size of the concrete waiting area by using two parking spaces from the municipal lot behind the stop. The glass shelter would then be moved to the rear of the widened concrete pad.

The entire body was supportive of the notion in theory.

“They [the bus patrons are doing things downtown that we want them to do,” said Councilman Joe Mitrecic. “In the long run, it helps the merchants downtown.”

However, Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out that the $10,000 price tag for the expansion would be compounded by the loss of $3,000 per year in parking meter revenue from the two spaces that would be eliminated. He suggested instead that only the easternmost space and the access aisle behind it be sacrificed, and that the shelter to stay in place. This would reduce the installation cost and the cut to the city’s meter revenue.

Council voted unanimously to have Adkins move forward with Dare’s proposed compromise.

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