OK: Higher Frequency Focus of Proposed New Bus System

Citizens will experience less wait-time for weekday bus service if proposed service changes are adopted. Metro Transit is proposing a restructured route network and will be hosting a series of public meetings throughout the city Oct. 3-11 to collect public comment on the proposed improvements.

The changes are based in part on a study by Nelson Nygaard, a firm hired by the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA) and the city of Oklahoma City to review and make recommendations for improving the current public transit system within METRO Transit’s existing budget and resources. The consultants’ final recommendations focus on increasing the frequency of the bus routes, reducing passenger wait time, reducing passenger travel time and realigning routes to better match demand.

Building on the work of the consultants, the Oklahoma City Council allocated an additional $1 million to help increase frequency to every 30 minutes on even more routes; leaving only four local bus routes 9, 11, 14, and 18 with wait times no more than 60 minutes. Consultants say increasing the frequency of a bus route not only makes it more convenient for riders, it also makes the system easier to understand.

“The current system can be confusing and connections between buses can be long because not all routes have the same frequency.” said Thomas Wittmann, with Nelson Nygaard. “Buses may stop in one place every 45 minutes, another place every 90 minutes and another place it may only stop a few times per day. But when you can walk to a bus stop and know you can catch a bus every 30 minutes, it takes out some of the guess work and makes it easier to understand.”

To achieve a higher frequency, the bus routes will make fewer deviations into neighborhoods, primarily sticking to main arterials, a practice consultants say is common in most large cities. The changes also create several bus corridors with 15 minute frequency, establish a mini transit hub in west Oklahoma City for improved connectivity and create a new south crosstown route to serve a growing South 29th Street corridor.

Based on pilot programs in 2010 and 2011, Metro Transit ridership increased by about 20 and 30 percent when frequency was increased from one hour to 40 minutes and from 65 to 32 minutes.

According to the study, increased frequency will not only improve convenience for existing riders but states that nationwide market research has shown 30 minute service is the minimum level of service necessary to attract more riders.

“The changes we are talking about are really transformational,” said Rick Cain, administrator for the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority. “More frequent service is the first step to a better system. The new alignment and schedule are the foundation for a service that could support future improvements like extended hours and Sunday service. Those improvements will really make a difference for existing and potential riders.”

If additional funding becomes available, the consultants’ long term recommendations for increased frequency on additional routes, later service and Sunday service will be pursued.

Public meetings will be held in all quadrants of the city during October and will address the proposed service changes and a fare increase to help maintain existing service. The proposed fare changes would increase local single-trip fare prices to $1.75 from $1.50 and express single-trip fares to $3 from $2.25. Unlimited day, week and monthly passes would stay the same at $4, $14 and $50 respectively. Other changes include adjusting fares for reserved and curb-to-curb trips on Metro Link, a limited night and Sunday service.

Once public comments have been received and reviewed, fare increases could be implemented as early as January 2014 and service changes could be implemented as early as spring 2014.