Two Tulsa city councilors Monday night heralded the potential benefits of a Bus Rapid Transit system, describing it as a shift in the city's transit philosophy and a key component of the proposed Improve Our Tulsa capital package.
"Historically, in Tulsa with public transportation, we have funded substandard service and spread it out over as much area as we possibly can. That has been our approach," Councilor G.T. Bynum told about 50 people gathered for a forum at All Souls Unitarian Church. "What this does is say, let us, instead of doing that, let's have a really good service that serves lots of people who really want to use it and focus it on a defined area."
The $918.7 million capital improvements package, which goes to voters Nov. 12, includes $15 million that would be dedicated to the Bus Rapid Transit system.
Bus rapid transit systems make fewer stops than traditional local bus systems but stop more frequently at the locations they do serve.
The proposed bus rapid transit system would replace Tulsa Transit's 105 Route, which accounts for 15 percent of the service's passenger trips, and run from Peoria Avenue and 38th Street North to Lewis Avenue and 81st Street.
The service also would run to the downtown Denver Avenue station.
After hearing from Bynum and his fellow City Councilor Blake Ewing, audience members asked a wide range of questions about the proposed BRT system. James Wagner with the Indian Nations Council of Governments, who helped put the BRT plan together, was there to answer them.
According to Wagner:
- The BRT service fare would be the same as the current bus system;
- BRT buses, like existing buses, would operate on compressed natural gas;
- Enhanced bus stations, not the buses themselves, are the key component of the BRT system, providing a true, safe bus station, rather than a simple bus stop; the BRT bus stops would provide real-time bus tracking and ticketing services;
- BRT buses would come equipped with bike racks, and
- Hours of operation would be Monday through Saturday — just like the 105 — but longer hours, from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Officials have estimated that wait times would go from 30 minutes to 15 minutes during peak hours and from 30 minutes to 20 minutes the rest of the day.
Local service would remain along a three-mile stretch of Peoria from 38th Street North to 66th Street North.
According to INCOG, the Peoria corridor runs within a half-mile of 20 percent of the jobs in the city, and one in seven Tulsans lives within a half-mile of the corridor.
Rex Traw told councilors he would be 100 percent behind the BRT proposal if the city could do something about the danger the buses along Peoria Avenue present.
"The current bus system, you have got either Peoria that is too narrow or you have got buses that are too wide...," Traw said. "My wife drives a Honda Civic and I think she shuts her eyes when she goes around a bus."
Wagner explained that Rapid Transit System buses do not go faster than a regular city bus. They move along their route faster because they have fewer stops and a computer system that extends the green light at traffic signals when the bus is behind schedule, Wagner said.
Ewing urged those in attendance to support the Improve Our Tulsa package next month and called the Bus Rapid Transit system the most exciting part of the proposal.
"It is forward-thinking investment that I think builds the community for the future," he said.
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
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