Bus Service in Oklahoma City
I have spoken on the issue of the poor bus service in the Oklahoma City metro area many times. It is shameful that our city refused to make a viable bus system that covers all major arteries with regular service. With gas prices approaching $4.00 a gallon, it is tough for many people to afford to drive. This has been a topic of discussion for years that our city has the worst bus system than any city of comarable size in the United States. There are entire sections of the city that get no service at all and those that do, are sporadic at best. On a good day you will wait no less than one hour at any bus stop in the metro area. I live four miles from downtown Oklahoma City and I would have to walk two and a half miles to find the nearest bus that runs four times a day.
I have been very proud of our city in many respects but am ashamed at their lack of leadership in this area. The reason that I decided to post this message was that I just heard a story on KFOR channel 4 about a meeting to discuss the bus system. They cut to a city council member that suggested cutting all services except downtown. This means the areas with virtually no service would actually get no service at all. I work at Tinker AFB, the largest single site employer in the state with more that 20,000 full time employees. Our city does not have any bus service to Tinker at all. This lack of leadership that I referred to is made evident in the words of this councilman when he said it would be irresponsible to pay $54 million a year to expand the bus system with no gaurantees that ridership will increase. This coming from a guy who voted to give $17 million to Bass Pro Shops to rent a store downtown. I was not completely opposed to this because I knew there would be a return on the investment.
He is trying to make this same claim about the bus system. The problem with that is that our city leaders have deliberately made our bus system meet minimum governmental requirements knowing that it would fail to attract riders so they can claim that no one will ride the bus. I have lived in the Oklahoma City area for 32 years and this city has never had an acceptable bus system even one day. They do not cover the city with acceptable service and no one wants to ride the bus. The very few bus stops that are in the city do not have any cover whatsoever. You are lucky to have a bench in the hot sun or snow. When a person has to sit out in the weather for more than an hour at best, you are never going to get a serious ridership. The city leaders use this history of poor ridership as an excuse to say the bus system will not get a return on its investment. These decisions are calculated and deliberate. Our city leaders do not want to spend money on a bus system so they create an environment that results in a self fulfilling prophecy of no riders.
I think this tactic is shameful and needs to have a light shined upon it. I have lived in many other cities that have much better bus systems than ours and a couple were actually smaller cities. I think that our leaders need to be thinking about the citizens that are struggling to pay for gas. There should be regular bus system, meaning at least ever 30 minutes, to every major artery in the metro. This service should continue no earlier than 10:00 PM daily. Yes it would be expensive at first but in the long term it would pay for itself. This notion that no one would ride the bus is ridiculous. They have zero evidence to prove that because Oklahoma City has NEVER had full time bus service throughout the metro area. I have never seen a city that had regular service that did not have heavy usage. In Phoenix, Tucson, and Denver they were heavily used by people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
A real leader would step up and take responsibility and do the right thing. If we can afford to spend $54 million to buy the old General Motors plant, and $121 million to upgrade the Ford Center, I really believe we can do this. For the record I did not oppose those other initiatives again because I know they will bring a return on the investment. The bus system will bring a return on the investment as well. The assumption that a bus system will cost $54 million to improve the bus system makes the assumption that people will be riding for free and no fees will be collected. It neglects the idea that less cars would be on the road. We need to take a stand and tell our “acting” leaders to step up and actually be one. Let’s get a bus system that can be depended upon to get our citizens around.