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Oklahoma City's mass transit overhaul comes with a big price

BY BRYAN DEAN Published: November 5, 2008
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Oklahoma City’s mass transit plan isn’t the problem. It’s the money.

Metro Transit spent 18 months studying public transportation options, which included public forums.


The resulting plan included better bus service, commuter rail, a modern streetcar for the downtown area and bus rapid transit, which is a hybrid between bus and rail.

Total price tag: $394 million to build and $90 million a year to maintain.

"If we could implement this, it would create a convenient and user-friendly system,” transit spokesman Michael Scroggins said. "Quite frankly we just aren’t able to accommodate the needs of our citizens and visitors at this time.”

Everyone in city government, even those who work in transit, acknowledge the bus system is inconvenient for many residents. Even with such a hefty price tag, many believe the system could be built.

Federal transit money also is available for such projects and city leaders are pushing the state to fund more transit initiatives.

Ward 4 Councilman Pete White said the current economic downturn has made funding a more difficult prospect.

"Prior to a month ago, I would have said I was very optimistic we could find the money for it,” White said. "We have to take a wait and see attitude in the next few months as far as the financial situation before we commit to new services.”

Though the local economy is strong in comparison to other areas, White said tough economic times will trickle down.

White said he’s confident a good mass transit system can be built in Oklahoma City. It just might take longer than anyone had hoped if the money isn’t readily available.

"We’re moving in that direction about as well as we can, given that we are not laid out to be a walkable city,” White said. "In the long term, mass transit is the only real solution.


Background

Oklahoma City residents who submitted ideas for MAPS 3 last year overwhelmingly picked mass transit as the top issue.

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