Focus on the real MAPS 3 issue: a downtown streetcar system!

May 19th, 2009

The reactions I am seeing have me worried that my previous post did not communicate what was intended. The post was not meant to be depressing, but rather to serve as a wake-up call to everyone. To let the people of OKC know that transit is not a sure thing and encourage people to get involved and make it happen.

I don’t think the addition of the River Plan is a bad thing, I simply think that it should not be at the expense of transit. For me, I am actually quite intrigued by the River Plan and excited to see what Mike Knopp has put together. Like others, I think the river is one of our greatest untapped resources.

On the convention center, I am not convinced either way. I don’t appreciate the process and/or the lack of objectivity used to push the convention center forward, but the city leadership appears squarely behind it, so okay, I can get on board with that. But again, it does not have to be at the expense of a meaningful investment in transit.

Finally, I would like to point out that transit can mean many different things. I believe that a downtown streetcar system is what it should mean for MAPS 3. This system would serve as the foundation for future expansions. It never was a real possibility that MAPS3 could provide a regional light-rail network engaging municipalities across the metro. A regional system takes years – if not decades – of cooperation between municipalities, along with state and federal governments. This process has started, but it is nowhere near complete. Plus, the cost of a regional light-rail system makes it inappropriate for a MAPS project. It was never a real option. So please don’t believe that MAPS 3 transit is being held-up by a lack of commitment from surrounding municipalities.

Oklahoma City, by itself, could take a great first step towards meaningful public transit by establishing a downtown streetcar system as part of MAPS 3. Shifting the focus towards a regional system that relies on suburban communities is just a way of confusing the issue and passing the buck!

2 responses

  1. ryecroft comments:

    Regarding the transit issue I think the smartest thing to do is implement modest changes incrementally, but the changes should all demonstrate that the city is moving towards a larger declared vision.

    I completely agree that a focus on a regional system at this point is passing the buck. But if the city doesn’t layout a larger goal for transportation right now…the buck will continually be passed until we end up in a situation where we are the last to implement the measure, or a version is forced upon us that doesn’t work the way Oklahoma City and the region needs it to work. MAPs 3 should do exactly what you’ve stated: Incorporate a downtown transit system that would serve as the foundation for future expansion. The plan for that expansion should be explicitly stated now rather than deferred.

  2. Blair comments:

    Absolutely. I agree with that. There is not reason that we should not be able to put forth a vision for a regional system in principle right now, even if we don’t yet have all of the municipalities willing to open up their coffers to help pay for it.

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