Next stop: Vote on fate of Lewes Line

Council to hear report, decide future of bus service
January 12, 2024

The Lewes Line could be pulling into its last stop, at least as we know it.

Councilwoman Carolyn Jones and Deputy Mayor Khalil Saliba, supporters of the three-year pilot program, will present a report on the bus service at Lewes Mayor and City Council’s Thursday, Jan. 25 workshop. Council will then likely vote on its fate.

Jones was instrumental in getting the Lewes Line up and running two years ago. At the Jan. 8 council meeting, even she admitted the end is near.

“The Lewes Line, the way it is, is not going to be able to possibly run next season. The buses aren’t going to make it, and we’re not buying any buses,” she said.

The Lewes Line was launched in May 2022. It wrapped up its second year Sept. 30. 

A city report released Nov. 30 showed the Lewes Line operated in the red, losing $177,000 in its first two years. The city has said the Lewes Line was never intended to make money.

Councilman Joe Elder said 85% of capacity went unused this year.

The city has a $1 lease for five buses through the end of the year.

Saliba said DART is scaling back its 204 bus line to once every 50 minutes in season, because of a 10% drop in ridership last year, the largest drop of any route in the state. He said it is possible that was due to the almost-duplicated service provided by the Lewes Line.

He said he has talked to DART and the Delaware River and Bay Authority about alternatives.

“DART has two pilot programs – one in Newark, one of Georgetown – that operate on an on-demand model similar to Uber,” he said.

But, he said, that service would not be launched for three to five years. He said under that scenario, DART would provide the buses, while the city would provide the labor.

He said DRBA would be willing to pay for a scaled-back version of the Lewes Line.

“DRBA relies on the Lewes Line, so there [could be] a version that runs one to three buses from the ferry to Second Street, with maybe one or two additional stops,” Saliba said.

John Cross of Lewes, who has been a critic of the Lewes Line, gave council an A for effort, but said it is not worth spending taxpayer money.

“At the end of the day, we were primarily servicing the ferry, and the city does not need to be in that business,” Cross said.

“No one should be ashamed of this. It was a worthwhile effort,” said Mayor Andrew Williams.


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