NORTH WILDWOOD — The cost of a ride on the famous Boardwalk tram cars, recognized for their bright colors and repetitive “Watch the tram car, please” warning, will reach $3 this summer.
But the 600,000 people that ride each year are expected to continue to take the 2-mile long trip down the Boardwalk on what is one of Five Mile Beach's most recognizable symbols.
“People appreciate the tram cars and what they mean. It’s an appropriate price and still a very, very affordable option,” Boardwalk Special Improvement District Executive Director Patrick Rosenello said.
The trams, operated by the SID, have been rolling along the boards since June 1949, when the fare was just a dime. Last year, the fare was $2.50 each way, the same rate that had been in place since 2009, when it increased from $2.25.
“The main reason is to keep the tram cars on sound financial footing,” Rosenello said of the increase.
Five of the eight trams were built for the 1939 World’s Fair, with the other three built in 1963, all with custom-built engines. Each engine is powered by a 2,510-pound battery.
The additional funds, Rosenello said, will be necessary as the district looks to replace at least one of the older engines.
“We have not found one yet,” he said.
“They were custom-built units, so finding them on the shelf is not an easy task,” he said. The cost of a new engine remains an unknown, but the last time the district had new seating cars built, the cost for one set was about $100,000 in 2007.
The increase is also part of the cost of doing business, Rosenello said, noting $3 buys a 30-minute ride along the Boardwalk in Wildwood and North Wildwood.
Rosenello said riders will now also be able to purchase tram car tickets with their credit cards onboard, and he said that discounted tickets will be available at about 20 locations on the Boardwalk..
Tram revenue for 2013 is expected to reach $1.05 million, according to the SID budget.
Of that, the improvement district will pay $101,600 to Wildwood and $25,400 to North Wildwood, a tram rental fee for using the Boardwalk.
The tram revenue, along with $305,000 in assessments on Boardwalk property owners, makes up the bulk of the improvement district's annual budget.
The agency uses the money for everything from tram maintenance and storage of the trams, which costs $65,000 annually, to programs such as Friday night fireworks and free family-oriented entertainment.
In addition, the district employs about 100 people along with several dozen subcontractors. The district has two year-round employees.
Salaries for the year are expected to be $670,000, while the district's total 2013 budget comes to $1.725 million.
North Wildwood City Clerk Scott Jett said the SID budget, which needs approval from both cities the trams serve, has been introduced in North Wildwood, and a public hearing is set for March 5. The budget has not yet been introduced in Wildwood.
Jett added that the district has also offered a shared-services agreement with the city to clean its Boardwalk bathrooms for $25,000 for the season, about $5,000 less than the city paid another contractor in 2012.
Rosenello, who is also North Wildwood's City Council president, said Wednesday that the district's work is important because of the role the Boardwalk plays on Five Mile Beach.
The island and the 2-mile long Boardwalk see about 9 million visitors a year and on any given summer weekend Rosenello estimated 75,000 people are roaming the boards and riding the trams.
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