Oklahoma City gets $14.3 million grant to provide rapid transit bus line service
Oklahoma has been awarded a federal grant of nearly $14.4 million to finance construction of an 8-mile rapid transit bus line that will connect downtown Oklahoma City with regional medical and commercial centers in the northwest part of the city.
"This was a nice deal," said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. "We were thrilled to hear the news."
The rapid transit bus route will travel along Classen Boulevard and the Northwest Expressway and is expected to be placed in service by 2023, the mayor said.
"We think that Oklahoma Cityans, though they have never experienced bus rapid transit in our city before, will enjoy and use it when it is available here in a few years thanks to this grant," Holt said.
Rapid transit service typically differs from normal bus service in that the buses don't make as many stops, they travel faster and they often have traffic signal prioritization, Holt said. Sometimes the buses also have dedicated lanes and passengers enter from platforms similar to those available for trains, he said.
Holt likes to describe bus rapid transit service as something of a compromise between rail service, which is expensive but popular, and bus service, which is cheaper but not as well used.
It's an attempt to find "the sweet spot in the middle that a lot of cities have found popular," Holt said, adding that city officials hope a lot more people will choose to use mass transit once the new service becomes available.
"This isn't the last bus rapid transit line we hope to open in Oklahoma City," he said. "We hope to go in other directions, but this was the first."
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Holt said announcement of the grant is the latest development in a grand plan to greatly improve the availability of mass transit service in Oklahoma City, making it easier for people to get around without cars.
About 12 years ago, the city developed a mass transit plan that had four major components, he said.
Those components included better bus service, a downtown streetcar, bus rapid transit and regional commuter rail.
Although the city has been working on that plan a long time, progress might not have been very noticeable to the public until recently, he acknowledged.
That has changed.
"Tick down the list," Holt said. "We've added Sunday bus service this year. The downtown streetcar opens this week. Bus rapid transit — now suddenly we're going to have our first line. And commuter rail — we created the state's first regional transit authority this past month."
"All of a sudden, we're making progress on all four categories of transit service as envisioned 12 years ago," he said.