OKC wins $14.3 million grant for bus rapid transit systemPublished: Friday, December 7, 2018 By: Brian Brus Source: The Journal Record
Oklahoma City’s first bus rapid transit system will be years in development, city officials said Friday, citing parking lots, dedicated driving lanes and boarding stop concessions as just a few of the unknown details in a BRT corridor about to take shape.
Mayor David Holt announced late Thursday that Oklahoma City had received a federal grant of $14.3 million to develop the BRT along Northwest Expressway to Meridian Avenue after a short leg from downtown. Planning Manager Larry Hopper said at the regularly scheduled Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority meeting the next day that the grant will receive matching funds from the city –$10.8 million in bond debt and $2.2 million in sales tax proceeds have already been approved by voters – but added that the plan has barely formed beyond its basic premise.
Regardless, COTPA Trustee James Cooper said he had already received feedback following Holt’s tweets and residents’ enthusiasm is “through the roof.”
It helps, too, that the service will connect to the new streetcar line opening in downtown next week, which will give commuters more options to reach offices and retail. Hopper said the streetcar will provide space for bicycles as well, expanding multimodal transit options further.
The nature of a BRT is similar to dedicated mass transit rail, Hopper said, increasing passenger capacity and schedule reliability by establishing priority over other vehicles in normal traffic flow. Other systems across the country show a dedicated bus lane is one possible element; traffic signal synchronization is another.
Maximal benefit of a BRT also requires a network of other transit modes that feed into the corridor. That means parking lots at route terminals where automobile drivers can feel comfortable leaving their vehicles for the day. The corridor must also connect to the city’s other bus lines, which will require some adjustment to the current route map, COTPA spokesman Michael Scroggins said.
Trustee David Greenwell looked as far ahead in the plan as to ask whether concession stands or other amenities might be possible at BRT stops.
Hopper said city officials have already started looking for potential partnerships to make the park-and-ride transition viable. He mentioned discussions with the Simon Property Group, a commercial real estate company that holds several shopping malls and stores.
COTPA Director Jason Ferbrache said the federal government is expecting a full study of environmental impact in exchange for the grant, which will include historical areas along the BRT corridor. That alone will take the city into 2021 before construction can begin. Full service is estimated by 2023. Once efficacy is established, more routes will be considered.