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OKC Central: Transit alternatives begin to emerge downtown in Oklahoma City

Steve Lackmeyer: Plans in Oklahoma City for electric car charging stations, a streetcar system and bicycle accommodations begin to open up transit options for downtown residents, workers and visitors.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: April 17, 2012

Historians generally agree that it was a German, Karl Benz, who invented the gasoline-powered automobile way back in 1885 with sales starting three years later.

Oklahoma City, founded in 1889, certainly was not designed from the start around the automobile. And for the first three decades, it's fair to say the early development of Oklahoma City was guided by a streetcar system that operated from 1904 to 1947.

But in the decades since, Oklahoma City has been a community designed around the automobile.

A small revolution is about to take place, however, in the heart of the city and this downtown experiment might just change the rules for decades to follow.

Consider first that after more than two decades of starts and stops by streetcar advocates, a rail-based transit system is in the works as part of MAPS 3 that will link the Central Business District, Bricktown, Automobile Alley, Deep Deuce, and MidTown. With $129 million in funding, questions about operational costs and potential future expansion remain to be answered.

But have no doubt, a streetcar system is now in the cards for downtown, and talks continue with surrounding communities about creating rail-based links throughout the metro. It's a start; one that advocates hope will spur more investment in future years.

Likewise, downtown also is set to get its start at “green parking” — a system that will allow owners of electric vehicles to plug in along a curb. Two recharging stations are set to be built later this year as part of Project 180.

One is tentatively set to be built between City Hall and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, while a second is to be built by the Civic Center Music Hall.

Yet another renovation is taking place in terms of accommodating bicycle traffic. Bicycle lanes already can be seen along completed Project 180 reconstructions of Sheridan and Walker avenues. An effort by Urban Neighbors to add bicycle racks along several spots downtown a few years ago also is being augmented by the addition of even more racks as part of Project 180.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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