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Riding on a downtown trolley would be nice

by Steve Lackmeyer Published: June 10, 2008
Now that downtown is becoming a true neighborhood with hundreds of apartments and condominiums opened the past couple of years, wouldn't it be great to have the Oklahoma Spirit trolleys run an expanded schedule of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays?

OK, those are pretty specific operating hours. Indeed, that was the schedule with trolleys hitting stops every 10 minutes when the service was launched 10 years ago.

That same service is now a mish-mash of reduced service routes. One can travel an extended downtown "blue line” that traverses the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and Bricktown and everything between. The loop doesn't begin until 10 a.m. and stops are now every 20 minutes. A red line serves lunchtime workers 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays with stops every 15 minutes.

As service declined, ridership also fell
Neither line makes it feasible for a downtown resident even to consider relying on shuttles as a way to get to and from work. And Sunday service? It's been dropped all together. The cuts have crept in gradually over the years, blamed invariably on tight budgets and increased costs.

And as the schedules have shrunk and waiting times expanded, ridership has dropped. At a recent meeting of Urban Neighbors, Mayor Mick Cornett was asked by a resident if MetroTransit's operation of the trolleys has been inept. He disagreed, but acknowledged some changes may be needed.

As the trolley routes have been whittled, the city has launched the Oklahoma River Cruisers as a means of public transit to meet a need that city officials admit doesn't exist yet.

What does city pay for boat service?
In a contract negotiated with the only company to bid for operations of the boats, the city pays Hornblower Marine Services $15,000 per month — and that's just the management fee. Hornblower also is reimbursed for operating expenses including wages, equipment, supplies, utilities and fuel.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist 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 Metropolitan...
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