Decisions on the route designation for the city's future streetcar system are one step closer to being finalized.
The Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority completed its series of "Let's Talk Transit" meetings recently. The meetings acted as a forum for citizens to voice their input about the transit project, which is a part of the MAPS 3 initiative.
MAPS 3 allots $130 million to create five to six miles of downtown streetcar lines to link major residential, commercial and entertainment areas in the city. The package also includes funding for additional commuter rail transit lines and an intermodal transit hub for the downtown area.
"The modern streetcar has an opportunity to change the face of this city and be the beginning of a tremendous rail system in the future," Mayor Mick Cornett said at the May 27 meeting of the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board.
In a series of public forums, "Let's Talk Transit" addressed issues and options concerned with the streetcar project, including the type of streetcar and routes to be considered.
Among a number of alternative methods of transportation, COTPA chose the modern streetcar as its vehicle. Transit consultant Mike McAnelly said the modern streetcar is an electric-powered vehicle that runs along tracks and utilizes overhead electrical wires.
Most models have a seating capacity of 30 riders, but can hold more than 120 when using its standing room. The interior is climate-controlled, with low floors and wide doors for increased handicap accessibility.
"The overall look of downtown is changing to become more pedestrian-friendly and dynamic," McAnelly said. "The modern streetcar was a better choice to fit with the planned improvements in the downtown area rather than the nostalgic trolley style. Additionally, the modern streetcar provides for easier on and off for individuals with mobility impairments."
Although the routes haven't been finalized, several options are proposed.
At the second meeting, the public divided into six groups to propose routes for the streetcar. Groups represented different perspectives of people in Oklahoma City: the visitor, the resident and the worker.
A consensus of the six citizen-proposed routes used Broadway Avenue and Walker Avenue as north-south pairs, and Sheridan Avenue and Reno Avenue as east-west pairs.
In the following meetings, routes were whittled down to fewer options, and ultimately, down to three. The final three proposals at the May 27 meeting included a 6.35-mile long track with two east-west alignments and one north-south couplet, known as Option No. 1. This option encompasses Bricktown and extends east to include the OU Health Sciences Center.
Option No. 2 is 5.47 miles long and features a more U-shaped design. It also includes Bricktown and OUHSC, but doesn't run along Robinson Avenue or Fourth and Sixth streets like the first option.
The final option is 6.75 miles long and runs as far north as N.W. 11th. Like the previous options, it covers Bricktown and OUHSC.
Oklahoma City resident Jack Woodward said he was pleased with the outcomes of the meetings he attended.
"I think they've really done a good job of airing out the issues," Woodward said. "I'm very impressed with the professionalism and approach that I've seen in 'Let's Talk Transit.' It's operating at a higher level than I was expecting."
However, architect Blair Humphreys said the final options failed to capture the city's need for a simple system that reinforces important urban corridors downtown.
"I think, ultimately, Oklahoma City is a good city to experience in straight lines," said Humphreys. "It seems the most important (to citizens) were Sheridan, Broadway and Walker, in that order. Within our ability, the amount of track we can fund should be those first."
Although the meetings have ended, residents can still give their input at www.letstalktransit.com. "Luke Atkinson
Option No. 1 encompasses Bricktown and the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and extends to the OU Health Sciences Center.
Option No. 2 is a U-shaped course. It begins at the N.W. corner of 10th and Walker, travels south to Bricktown and ends at the OU Health Sciences Center.
Option No. 3 encompasses the Oklahoma City National Memorial and runs south along Robinson. The route turns east through Bricktown and continues north to the OU Health Sciences Center.