Tram car price to increase this summer

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Photo by Bill Barlow/ The price for a tram car ride will be $3 in 2013. Photo by Bill Barlow/ The price for a tram car ride will be $3 in 2013. WILDWOOD- This summer, a ride on the tram car is set to go up to $3 from $2.50- the first increase since 2009.

Patrick Rosenello, executive director of the Boardwalk Special Improvement District, which operates the tram cars, said the increase is to offset the costs of making improvements to the cars, as well as an increase in the lease to the North Wildwood and Wildwood to operate them on the boardwalk. He added that the cost to operate the cars, such as insurance, has also gone up.

New this year, the tram riders will be able to buy their tickets on the car with a credit card, he said.

“It’s still very affordable,” Rosenello said. “There is a very high demand for the tram cars.”

More than 600,000 people ride the tram car every summer, and revenue from the trams is set to bring $1.05 million to the district, according to its budget.

Rosenello said that money basically covers the cost of operating the cars. The SID pays $98,880 to Wildwood and $25,400 to North Wildwood as rent to operate the cars on the boardwalk. This price is also an increase from 2009, Rosenello said.

The tram cars, a boardwalk institution since 1949, were long operated by a private company. The tram cars were built for the 1939 World’s Fair before coming to Wildwood, and the five original cars are still in operation.

 The SID took over the operation in 2004.

“It’s a very expensive operation, and we now understand why the private operator had had enough.”

The district operates eight tram cars on the Wildwoods Boardwalk. Of those eight cars, Rosenello said, five tram car engines were built in 1939, and the three others were built around 1964.

Eventually, all of those engines will have to be replaced, Rosenello said. However, replacing them isn’t as easy as picking a new engine out of a catalogue.

All the engines were custom built for the tram cars, Rosenello said. They have to be electric, engineered to operate at a specific turning radius, and have to fit inside the car perfectly, so it can still operate on the tram car path.

“We have yet to find a unit you can buy off the shelf,” he said.

When the passenger train of one car had to be replaced last year, Rosenello said the cost came to be about $100,000. So the cost of custom building one tram car engine should be well above that number, Rosenello said.

“The cost of the engine is unknown,” he said. “But we plan on replacing all eight engines over a number years.”

Storing the trams is another cost, which the SID budget lists as a $65,000 annual expense. Wages are $670,000 of the district’s budget, too.

Other than revenue from the tram cars, the SID is funded through a tax assessment on boardwalk businesses, which totals $305,000. Rosenello said that this levy is in addition to property taxes business owners pay, and are a percentage of the property’s assessed value. So, Morey’s Piers pays a much larger assessment to the SID than a boardwalk t-shirt shop, Rosenello said.

The average cost of the assessment, Rosenello said, is about $1,200 per business.

That amount is the same as last year, he added. However, because the SID took on the responsibility of cleaning the Wildwood bathrooms in 2012, the assessment did increase that year.

North Wildwood has agreed to enter into a $25,000 bathroom cleaning contract with the district this year.

Rosenello said that the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority also kicks in $100,000 to the SID to take care of the bathrooms.

Besides the bathrooms and trams, the SID also takes care of boardwalk entertainment in the summer, as well as cleaning up the boards.

While the price of the tram ticket is set to go up, Rosenello said that there are ways for riders to buy discounted tickets. For example, Morey’s Piers will sell discounted tickets at their holiday and spring sales. A book of 25 one-way tickets is typically $40 during this sale, making each ticket about $1.60.

During the summer, that same ticket book is $50, which is still a discounted $2 per ticket.

The SID budget has already been introduced in North Wildwood, and a public hearing on the budget is set for 7 p.m. March 5 at City Hall, 901 Central Ave. Wildwood tabled the SID budget at its last meeting.

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at www.wildwood.shorenewstoday.com.


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