Letís ride: OKC streetcar vision comes to life

Published: Friday, December 14, 2018 By: Brian Brus Source: The Journal Record

 

The city’s new downtown streetcar system accepted its first riders Friday, setting aside fares for a few weeks to allow for cultural acclimation.

The launch was decades in the making, Mayor David Holt said. Twenty-five years ago voters approved the first Metropolitan Area Projects temporary sales tax, an issue that would be successful enough to drive a second and third iteration, ultimately producing $777 million in MAPS 3. Of that total, about $135 million was earmarked for a modern streetcar. The public supported a similar project in the first MAPS, Holt said, but it had to wait on other demands.

“Tomorrow has finally arrived,” Holt said just before inviting the public to board. “It makes a huge difference to our economic development opportunities, our visitor opportunities, and it’s a fundamental aspect of a comprehensive mass transit system. But more than that, it’s an inspiration as we think ahead about the future.

“As you know, we’re engaged in a MAPS 4 conversation now. This is a reminder that the things you dream of can happen,” he said.

Teacher Felix Linden attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony so he could report back to his students at Roosevelt Middle School. Linden and other attendees said they shared Holt’s sense of historic accomplishment at the Leadership Square streetcar station.

“It’s definitely worth taxpayers’ money,” Linden said. “It promotes the city; it promotes progress; it elevates our status and everything that we’re trying to do for the city. Big-league cities have big-league public transportation.”

COTPA Trustee James Cooper agreed that the project is worth the investment, even though naysayers have alleged such a small system – about 7 miles in two loops – will be seen primarily as a tourist attraction. The Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, or COTPA, is a key player in the ongoing development of a larger mass-transit system across multiple municipalities. The downtown streetcar is the first step, he said, which means the true payoff might still be years down the road.

Cooper has already adapted to mass transit; he uses the bus line and rides his bicycle downtown on a regular basis. Linden’s most recent rail or bus ride was a year ago when he took students on a Road Scholars Program field trip. Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, also attended the ribbon-cutting and said his last mass transit experience was last year in Kansas City. Aubrey McDermid, the city’s director of planning, couldn’t remember the last time she had been on a bus or streetcar in any city.

They all expressed intent to make the most of Oklahoma City’s new system and buy yearlong passes – a promise easier to make while trying

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