The Oklahoma City 2014-15 fiscal year budget approved June 10 by the city council includes additional funding of $1.35 million for enhancements to public transportation. Embark, rolled out significant improvements to the bus system earlier this spring.
The additional funding will continue the momentum with a pilot program for evening service and increased frequency.
“We want to acknowledge the foresight of the city council and Embark Board of Trustees in supporting the continuation of major enhancements to our system. The additional funding is a strong vote of confidence in our efforts to provide improved service for our riders,” said Jason Ferbrache, Embark director and administrator. “We commend our board of trustees and the city council for their partnership and progressive goals for the future of public transportation in our growing city.”
Included in the budget is funding for a pilot program for evening service until midnight. Service on all routes currently ends at approximately 7:30 p.m. Initial concepts include extending the service hours on Route 23 – a north crosstown route traveling 23rd Street and is one of the most heavily used routes in the system; and Route 11 – a new south crosstown route traveling SW 29th and SW 15th streets.
Ferbrache commented, “More than half of our riders use the public transit to get to school or work. Currently, riders have limited public transit options to access evening shift work and classes.” Also being considered is improvement of daytime frequency on two routes. By late summer staff will present recommendations to the board for final approval.
“Research has shown increased frequency leads to increases in ridership,” noted Ferbrache. “It makes service more convenient for current riders and helps simplify bus use for new riders. 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 plan your trip.”
The increased frequency and evening services are the continuation of service enhancements identified in a study conducted by an international transit research firm Nelson\Nygaard hired by the city of Oklahoma City and the Embark board to review and make recommendations for improving the public transit system.
In April, Embark launched the first phase of changes that included increased frequency of bus routes, reduced passenger wait time, reduced passenger travel time and improved routes to better match demand. Embark is also in the process of making technology improvements which include an online trip planner, electronic signage and on-board Wi-Fi.