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Traffic Talk: Oklahoma City's Spirit Trolleys are at the end of their line

Don Gammill: As the Spirit Trolleys roll to retirement in Oklahoma City, METRO Transit is switching to Downtown Discovery buses.
BY DON GAMMILL Published: January 21, 2013

Out with the old and in with the new.

I've heard Oklahoma City is getting rid of the downtown trolleys. If that's true, I think it's very sad. Those are not only attractive but neat to ride in. Plus, they are parts of the downtown area that make it unique. What's the thinking behind this?


Just last week, Oklahoma City spokeswoman Kristy Yager released an updated informational release on this, Cheryl. Here are some key points in her news release:

“Folks in downtown Oklahoma City and Bricktown will soon see a new public transportation vehicle rolling through the streets. The Downtown Discovery buses will hit streets this month in place of the Downtown Spirit Trolleys.

“The Downtown Spirit Trolleys are now 13 years old and were implemented in 1999 as part of the first MAPS program. The Trolleys carried nearly 85,000 downtown visitors and employees in 2012, a 41 percent increase since 2009.”

Erick Zaage, fleet manager at METRO Transit, said: “We loved the nostalgic look of the trolleys, but they have reached the end of their economic useful life and are no longer manufactured. Because of the height of the trolleys, they required passengers to climb stairs or use wheelchair lifts that presented maintenance issues.

“In their place, METRO Transit will roll out six new, 30-foot buses that are much more passenger-friendly. The buses are lower to the ground, feature a wheelchair ramp instead of a lift, have padded seats, bike racks and enhanced air conditioning. The new buses also feature a state-of-the-art emission system, which meets 2013 EPA mandates.”

There's your explanation of what and why, Cheryl. Here are some additional details.

Riding the Downtown Discovery buses will be free “through a private-sector sponsorship and will maintain the same route and schedule as the trolleys,” Yager says. “The Downtown Discovery destinations include the central business district, Bricktown, the Oklahoma City Memorial, the arts district, downtown transit center and the boat house district April (to) December.”

If you've ever wondered just who uses the METRO Transit vehicles, here's what city officials found in a survey last year. Fifty-five percent of the riders were visitors to Oklahoma City, with the other 45 percent being local residents. The majority of respondents rode for recreation and sightseeing, but the trolleys also were popular as shuttles to “to work, school and for shopping and dining.”

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