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Oklahoma City Metro Takes Big Step Toward Regional Public Transit

Association of Central Oklahoma Governments
ACOG's John Sharp presented to the Oklahoma City Council on Nov 20, 2018. The council voted in favor of establishing the Regional Transit Authority.

Moore became the sixth and final city to approve a new government entity called the Regional Transit Authority, or RTA, on December 3. Moore joined Edmond, Del City, Norman, Midwest City and Oklahoma City— a major milestone in an effort to connect the Oklahoma City metro through public transit.

John Sharp, Deputy Director of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, or ACOG, has shepherded the effort for over a decade. He says residents may one day be able to get around without a car, something he says will make the metro more attractive to prospective businesses.

“We don't have that option right now. Many other metro areas in the country in and around the world that we're competing against have that option,” Sharp said.

ACOG commissioned several transit studies beginning in 2005, including the Commuter Corridors study,which mapped routes between Edmond and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City and Norman, and from Oklahoma City to Tinker Air Force Base. Sharp believes building these routes would improve quality of life as the Oklahoma City metro continues to grow and traffic congestion worsens. According to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the region’s population will exceed 2 million by 2040.

“You might catch a train from Oklahoma City to Edmund and then you may get a shuttle or a scooter or something like that to go to UCO,” Sharp said, noting the recent proliferation of transportation options in urban areas.

The Commuter Corridors study examined Commuter Rail, Light Rail, Streetcar and Bus Rapid Transit as options for moving an estimated 32,000 daily riders. The study says building the three major commuter routes would put Oklahoma’s biggest metropolitan area on par with cities like Tucson, Las Vegas, Nevada and Austin. The proposed routes would converge in downtown Oklahoma City, and Sharp says they will need to integrate with existing local bus services, which may mean increasing the frequency of those services so riders can make quick connections. It’s also possible, according to Sharp, for local bus services to come under RTA’s management in the future.

The next step is asking voters to approve a sales tax increase to fund these services, something Sharp estimates will happen in the next two to five years. The amount of the increase will depend on the scope of the proposal and the chosen modes of transit, as well as updated construction, operation and maintenance costs.

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Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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