The Oklahoma City streetcar is officially open. In this week's episode of the Business Intelligence Report, Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses the history of the project and what to know about its services. Ray also talks about the opening of ShowBiz Cinemas in Edmond and the new entertainment options it brings to the metro.
Richard Bassett: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Richard Bassett. I'm talking with Journal Record editor Russell Ray. Russell, thank you for joining us.
Russell Ray: Hi Richard. It's good to be here.
Bassett: There are a couple of new additions to the Oklahoma City metro area I'd like to discuss today. First and probably more well-known, the OKC streetcar officially opened last week. Remind everyone of how long this project has been in the works and how it was paid for.
Ray: Well the streetcar project has been in the works for a long time. The streetcar system that launched last week was about 25 years in the making and it's a byproduct of the MAPS 1, MAPS 2 and MAPS 3 city sales tax initiatives. A modern streetcar system had plenty of support in MAPS 1. But the project was placed on the back burner due to other higher priorities. Finally it was included in MAPS 3 and $135 million was earmarked for the project. And today we have street cars covering seven miles in two loops around downtown.
Bassett: What are the concerns about the necessity of having a street car in Oklahoma City?
Ray: Well some argue it's merely a tourist attraction and does nothing to really meet the transportation needs of those in need. But the streetcar system is really seen as the first step in building a comprehensive mass transit system that includes rail and bus rapid transit. Altogether those projects would link to almost every city in the metro.
Bassett: Ho do city officials hope the streetcar will benefit the community in the short and long terms?
Ray: Well I think city officials would tell you it promotes the city, it promotes progress and it shows Oklahoma City is committed to expanding public transportation long term.
Bassett: Tell us about the streetcar system itself. Where does it go and how much does it cost to ride?
Ray: Well the streetcar system will be free to the public through January 5th. After that the price will be $1 for a single ride, $3 for a 24 hour pass, $32 for a 30 day pass and $384 for an annual pass. The streetcar has 22 stops. The route runs as far south as Southwest Third Street, north to Midtown at Northwest 11th and west as far as Dewey Avenue and east through brick town to Russell M. Perry Avenue. Hours of operation are 6a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 6a.m. to 2a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11a.m. to 7p.m. on Sunday.
Bassett: So the presence of a street car in the city might be a new experience for many Oklahomans. What should downtown pedestrians and drivers be aware of?
Ray: Well drivers should treat the street car just like a normal bus. Drivers should also be careful about where and how they park. You need to park within the white line to be clear of the streetcar path and there are new streetcar traffic signals that light up or blink. Those signals indicate the streetcar is coming your way, so be careful.
Bassett: The second new addition to the OKC metro I'd like to talk about today is the opening of ShowBiz Cinemas in Edmond this week. The community already has several theaters to choose from like the Warren, Harkins or AMC. How does ShowBiz contrast with these other options?
Ray: Well in addition to a movie theater, ShowBiz also features a bowling alley and an arcade. That's the chief difference. Another difference is the design. It features a more open concept and the café is much larger.
Bassett: Who paid for the theater?
Ray: In March 2017 Edmonds City Council members approved a $4.8 million economic incentive to help attract the cinema. The city funds were used to help develop the site and pay for construction costs. And under this incentive agreement with the city, the company must pay the city back over 20 years.
Bassett: Russell Ray is the editor of The Journal Record newspaper. Russell thank you for your time.
Ray: My pleasure Richard, thank you.
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