Edmond officials have more questions than answers on a proposal to change the route and make an extra stop on the city's express route to Oklahoma City so there will be bus service to the new Social Security building being constructed in northwest Oklahoma City.
Developers Mark Ruffinand Nick Preftakes, of Precor Realty Advisors Inc., made a request to the Edmond Public Transportation Committee to alter the Expresslink route so a stop can be made at the new building on the corner of N Kelley Avenue and NE 122.
Transportation Committee members didn't discuss the request because it was only listed as a presentation on the meeting agenda.
Randel Shadid, attorney for Ruffin and Preftakes said, he is continuing to discuss the request with city staff and plans to return to the transportation committee meeting.
After the express bus leaves Edmond, it now goes south on Eastern, west on Britton and south on the Broadway Extension to downtown. On the way back from downtown via the state Capitol, it goes north on Lincoln, east on Interstate 44 and north on Eastern Avenue to Edmond.
Shadid wants the express bus to alter its route from Eastern to Memorial or to NE 122 so it will drive past to the new Social Security building.
“There is no additional mileage,” Shadid said. “Granted, there are more turns and a stop that will take longer. Of course, time is money.”
Shadid offered financial assistance, but said he is continuing to negotiate with the city an amount.
Councilwoman Victoria Caldwell said cost is an issue because Citylink's budget is already tight and ridership continues to grow each month.
Edmond officials have relied on federal funding to help pay for the city's public transportation system. Those funds are starting to dwindle and city leaders had to come up with an additional $50,000 to make Citylink's $1.7 million budget this fiscal year. Citylink passengers ride free.
“This is a financial issue,” said Caldwell, the chairwoman of the Edmond Public Transportation Committee. “It is unknown to everyone what the ridership would be from the Social Security office. The Expresslink is pretty full now.”
Expresslink provided 63,825 rides last fiscal year. In July, 5,669 rides on Expresslink were counted.
The new Social Security building, scheduled to open in March, is in far northern Oklahoma City. It will replace the Social Security office at Shepherd Mall. A federal regulation requires public transportation to stop at the Social Security office, Shadid said.
The new building will be the workplace for up to 65 employees. Officials anticipate there will be 300 customers a day and 30 of those customers will ride the bus, he said.
“Citylink is a City of Edmond program,” Caldwell said. “It is important to me that the express bus is an express bus.”
Ruffin and Preftakes need an answer quickly because the new Social Security office is to open in March.
“We need to see if Edmond has a serious interest,” Shadid said. “Edmond should be. This meets the mission of Expresslink. This is a much better fit. The building is almost in Edmond.”
Metro Transit spokesman Michael Scroggins said it would cost well in excess of $200,000 per year for Oklahoma City buses to serve the new Social Security office.
Oklahoma City and the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority are working on plans to increase Metro Transit ridership.
Consultants say more frequent service on existing routes should be a top goal, and the city council has budgeted an additional $1 million for bus service.
“The new transit system plan does not recommend extending service to the newly proposed Social Security offices,” Scroggins said.
He said public transit services to the new location are “difficult to justify” because it is remote, with low housing density and poor access for pedestrians.
The closest Metro Transit bus is Route 18, which stops at Britton Road and NE Kelley.
“Under existing conditions, providing service to this location would disrupt riders' ability to make timely connections throughout the entire system,” Scroggins said.
“To encourage transit ridership, it is important to offer seamless transportation — safe, efficient, and fast connections between origin and destination, including getting to and from the bus stops,” he said.