Oklahoma City Councilman, Dr. Ed Shadid hosted a second 'townhall meeting" regarding the possibilities and pitfalls of OKC public transit last night at the historic Farmer's Market in downtown Oklahoma City at 311 South Klein.
The quaint event space, donated by the owners had arranged chairs for about 150. The seating had to be doubled on the fly to accommodate the crowd that arrived, and there were still many people standing for the hour long session. Many suits, aging and young adults present. Cathy Bolton and Frampton, two very visible intown riders, spokesperson and spokesdog respectively for the visually impaired community in OKC. http://www.touchemovie.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Press_Release_On...
The speakers were: President and CEO of New View (a center for the visually impaired) Lauren Branch. http://www.newviewoklahoma.org/
The President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Roy Williams.
Doug Rex: Division Director, Transportation & Planning Services at
Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) http://www.acogok.org/Contact_ACOG/
Dr. Ed Shadid, Councilman for OKC.http://www.okc.gov/council/02/ward2.html
Dr. Jarrett Walker, expert on urban development and public transportation evolution from Portland, Oregon. Jarrett Walker @humantransit posted positive comments today about this excursion on his Twitter account. "Thanks Oklahoma City for the biggest-ever turnout for one of my talks: well over 300! Thanks Councilor @edshadid for making it happen."
Two of the five speakers pointed out that the transit meeting was taking place at an hour which the OKC MetroTransit does not run, and so many who actively use the system could not attend, having no other transportation.
More meetings will be held in Spring 2013, which will be open to the public to consider what Oklahoma City has as a possible menu of options, and as Dr. Shadid and others pointed out, status updates regarding what is reasonable, logical and most effective for our city with longterm benefits in mind.
The gist of the presentation indicated that:
1) Oklahoma arrived last on a list of 50 other cities of similar size in a study of whether or not it can sustain private transportation if gas prices rise to or above $4 a gallon.
2) Oklahoma was one of 20 other cities to bid for federal transportation assistance for intown transit and all 19 others got it.
3) The reason OKC did not get it was because there is no sustainable matrix of funding for intown transit, as our transit system is solely funded from a percentage of the sales tax, and no line item, foundationl or other funding in place to address maintenance, repairs or advancement of system ... i.e. we don't have a plan like other cities, and therefore show ourselves as unprepared to accept a federal gift for transit.....Shadid used the term "cannibalism" to predict the outcome of current plans, in which a pending unique service may 'eat' the current dollars available for the existing services, causing potential collapse of BOTH.
4) Our transit system has routes and plans that are not the most efficient and effective, making this service provision for the 600+ square mile area ineffective for time and money.
5) Our city population is aging, as is most of US, with double population of 65+ by 2030... combined issues along with the
6) Need to attract and maintain commerce and educational interests in our city are reasons to get better, more effective plans in place. The public needs effective choices as to how to get around.
7) There is benefit to everyone in Oklahoma regarding ongoing discussion and development of the of public transport expansion, whether bus, tram, light rail or rail.
8) We need to look at low polution options for transit to sustain clean air and environmental responsibility.
Dr. Walker suggested looking to the usefulness of transportation options currently in place, and what kind of thinking can further the consideration, or kill it. He cited this article as timely information http://www.theatlanticcities.com/authors/jarrett-walker/ and has written a number of books. He and the presenting speakers encouraged critical thought to consider current approaches and how those might be improved upon to achieve a desired transit option.