Public input needed on Lewes Line

February 17, 2023

The following letter was sent to Lewes Mayor and City Council with a copy provided to the Cape Gazette for publication.

Regarding the Lewes Line bus service, issues such as efficiency, funding, servicing and routing should receive input from all city residents, especially since the Lewes Line’s operation is funded entirely by city funds. The public is disappointed that a public workshop did not take place last year when the city committed a large sum of money into the pilot program. A year after the city voted to operate the Lewes Line, it is without a doubt that major improvements are necessary before the city commits funds to it in the fiscal year 2024 budget.

The ridership numbers from last year show that about 85% of boardings and drop-offs took place at the ferry terminal and Second Street, demonstrating that any transit service should focus on connecting core places of interest to ensure the highest level of ridership. Last year’s service operated as a lengthy one-way loop route into low-density residential areas and as far away as Cape High. These other stops had extremely low ridership, yet constituted about three-quarters of the route, demonstrating a huge loss in both time and money. Having passed through the high school property on a bike ride last Memorial Day weekend, I did not see any indication of a transit line operating or signage of where a bus would go. The data the city presented is not a success of the whole route, but rather shows any transit effort going forward needs to be modeled on the former Delaware River and Bay Authority trolley service that traveled solely between the ferry terminal and downtown. Should the public deem the service essential, I ask council to coordinate with DRBA and DART to consider funding this operation as a limited service geared toward city visitors. The public should have a say whether this operation should be funded by the town, by a different agency or if the Lewes Line should be canceled in favor of the DART 204 Beach Bus line. 

Other concerns about the program’s longevity need to be addressed. Citizens should be made aware of the condition of the older bus fleet and how long vehicles will last until they need to be replaced or undergo major repairs. Finally, there is no indication about whether the state will supplement the program with a $50,000 grant received last year. Officials from the state should make this determination so residents are aware if they will have to make up the shortfall.  

The attempt to call the bus service a success is misleading, and numerous details need to be addressed before the city commits more funds into the Lewes Line, which last year operated at a net loss of more than $130,000, with ridership very low outside of downtown. Last year’s vote to proceed with the program was rushed, and many of the problems mentioned above could have been avoided if a public workshop had been held. These issues should not be discussed in daytime discussions by the finance committee or at budget meetings where there is limited time. It is best to request public input through online comments or a public workshop before decisions are made about 2023. 

Brian Aldred
  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

    To submit a letter to the editor for publishing, send an email to Letters must be signed and include a telephone number and address for verification. Please keep letters to 500 words or fewer. We reserve the right to edit for content and length. Letters should be responsive to issues addressed in the Cape Gazette rather than content from other publications or media. Only one letter per author will be published every 30 days. Letters restating information and opinions already offered by the same author will not be used. Letters must focus on issues of general, local concern, not personalities or specific businesses.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter