The Oklahoma City Council recently granted $153,711 to increase frequency on two METRO Transit bus routes. The new enhancements went into effect September 19 and are expected to increase ridership.
According to the City of Oklahoma City's 2011 Performance Report, recent citizen surveys have indicated that public transportation is one of the top four city services residents believe needs the most emphasis in the coming years.
The two bus routes benefitting from service enhancements are Routes 7 between northwest Oklahoma City and downtown and 14 between southeast Oklahoma City and downtown. An additional bus will be added to Route 7 all day on Saturday resulting in an improved 30 minute frequency vs. the current 75 minute frequency for a total cost of $33,323 between September and May. Additional trips will be added to Route 14 during peak morning and afternoon weekday travel times increasing frequency from 45 minutes to 22 minutes for a total cost of $120,388 for the same timeframe.
When funding has permitted service enhancements, METRO Transit ridership has grown quickly. During the summer, ridership increased as much as 22 percent on ozone-free ride days. With sponsorship of the Downtown Trolley by Platt College, ridership has nearly tripled. And with a 2009 City Council pilot program, frequency improvements to Routes 8 and 40 experienced a combined 43 percent increase in ridership.
"We're fortunate to have a city council that recognizes the benefits of public transportation on our community's employment opportunities, health, quality of life and economic development," said Rick Cain, administrator, Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority. "While we know we have a long way to go to provide a system that has a large enough coverage area and frequency to work for everyone, the small improvements we are making have resulted in promising results that indicate that as we continue to improve the system, our ridership numbers will follow."
Among city council's nine priorities is increasing effectiveness and sustainability of public transportation. The city of Oklahoma City's 2011 Performance Report stated that many of the operational goals are being achieved with on time arrivals improving to 93 percent. Ridership complaints are down for the second consecutive year to 1.3 for every 10,000 riders and vehicle accidents were down with 1.8 for every 100,000 miles. Reliability is also improving due in part to the 15 new voter-approved buses now in service.
"Oklahoma City is in a unique budget position and their city council's investment in public transportation is a forward thinking investment in their citizens," said Kristen Joyner, executive director of the South West Transit Association. "Helping people get to their jobs and access healthcare, education and other community services will improve quality of life and help the Oklahoma City economy grow."