Oklahoma City Council members listened to a presentation of the public transportation and parking budget proposal June 6, as director Rick Cain explained what steps need to be taken to improve a lackluster transit system in the metro.
Cain described the growing number of requests from Oklahoma City residents for routes to places not provided by the current system, as there are large areas of the metro where no routes are in place. A growing number of riders want routes to the Oklahoma City Arena for Oklahoma City Thunder games.
“We try to get to those places where we see demand,” Cain said. “But unfortunately, we have a diverse demand that comes to us, and many times we are not able to satisfy those requests.”
One area of concern is the lack of transportation to The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City on Interstate-40 and Council Road, which opens in August. Ward 6 councilwoman Meg Salyer agreed.
“It’s probably more than people going to shop, it's people going to work,” Salyer said. “I think providing public transportation to a very large number of people that will be working entry-level retail jobs is something that we ought to consider.
“I would hope that we would take a hard enough look to figure out a way to make it as easy and efficient for people as possible.”
Public transportation has made strides recently, however. The city recently purchased two compressed natural gas buses and one hybrid electric bus. These, plus one new diesel bus, will be used in a pilot program, traveling along route 23.
With the pilot program, each bus will travel the same route the same number of times. The cost for gas and repairs will be compared to see which bus is more efficient.
The life of a bus is a major concern. According to Cain, if there is federal money invested in any bus, the minimum number of years it must stay on the road is 12. However, a bus could accumulate up to 700,000 miles by that time.
Cain proposed a $2.3 million budget increase for 2012, but most of that money would go toward breaking even from the federal money spent in a stimulus grant last fiscal year. The budget for the 2012 fiscal year will be voted on June 14. —Dylan Smith