My Streetcar Route Suggestion for Oklahoma City

*Rebuilding this post. So I will be adding content again slowly, but with more detail.  Stay tuned.


There has been a lot of discussion about the future streetcar in Oklahoma City.  On June 26th, the MAPS 3 Streetcar Subcommittee met.  During their meeting, Jacobs Engineering presented the Subcommittee with four suggested alignments for the MAPS 3 streetcar.  If you haven't seen the proposed routes, please do  look at them. Jacobs proposed the Zeta, Zeta Plus, LPA Reverse, and the Hybrid. Jacobs used the following criteria to help them craft their proposal:

  • Serving key destinations
  • Maximizing economic development potential
  • Integration with the existing transportation network
  • Optimal system operation
  • Potential for expansion
  • Technical considerations and cost projections

A solution:

So this is my suggested alignment for Oklahoma City's first Modern Streetcar.  You will notice right away the major difference between my proposed route and any of the recent proposals, to include those lately proposed by Jacobs, is that I suggest we penetrate a residential core. I'll say this is really important that we feed any transit system with people.  Lots of people.  A route that is relying heavily on future population growth is a gamble we can't afford to take.  Serving major neighborhoods ensures that the streetcar is used throughout the day but also in the evenings, weekends, holidays, etc.  A commercial centric route, like those proposed, relies just about wholly on ridership that drives into downtown and then utilizes the transit. People movers like this aren't common but also aren't unheard of.  For them to be successful however, they need to be very efficient at said people moving.  The distances they cover are usually much shorter and therefore really demand a high frequency and tuned to maximum efficiency.  Otherwise they will struggle to attract the time-constrained rider.  Using a streetcar to get to lunch for example demands almost immediate service and a very short travel time.  Sound familiar? 

Let's jump into some specifics...

Route Description: North/South double tracked on Walker Avenue from 23rd Street to South Reno Ave. Additionally, a couplet extending east to Charlie Christian  Ave. on Reno and Sheridan. 

Distance: 6.0 miles of total track length

Residential Neighborhoods Served: Mesta Park, Heritage Hills, Jefferson Park, Paseo, Deep Deuce, Arts District.

Other Major Amenities/Significant Developments Served: Myriad Gardens, John W. Rex Elementary Charter School (under construction), Central Park (planned), new Convention Center (planned), Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Chesapeake Arena, Cox Convention Center, Edge@Midtown (residential development under construction), Plaza Court, UpTown 23rd redevelopment, Bricktown Canal, Harkins Theater, St. Anthony's Hospital, Emerson Middle School, Legacy at Arts (residential), Sycamore Square (residential), City of Oklahoma City offices, Civic Center Music Hall, Oklahoma County Jail,  Oklahoma City Court, Oklahoma County Court, Alcoholics Rehabilitation Center, Regents for Higher Education, Wilson Elementary School, Planned Parenthood, Oklahoma Museum of Art, Oklahoma National Memorial & Museum, Stage Center, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Arts Council of Oklahoma City, Coca-Cola Bricktown Event Center, and last but certainly not least the Downtown Transit Center.

Specific Advantages:
  • Downtown Transit Center Integration: One of the important aspects of this route is that it connects riders directly to the Downtown Transit Center.  About 10,000 riders a day use the Metro bus system and about half of those come through this bus station.  Making it the most important transit location in the city, by far. One of the significant advantages to using Walker Avenue to connect to the bus station is that the streetcar and its stop is able to stay clear of all of the entering and exiting buses.  Stopping on Hudson or NW 4th Street would block current bus stops.  There are other significant advantages to connecting to the Downtown Transit Center but they deserve unique attention and will be outline below.
Suggested stop and connection to Metro Bus Station

  • Regional Passenger Rail Connection to Downtown Transit Center: This route connects to the current Amtrak Station at Reno & E.K. Gaylor and any future commuter rail connections that will come through this rail station.
  • Socioeconomic Diversity: This route does something really important. It connects downtown and all the MAPS amenities with a very diverse population group.  There is a substantial range of income levels between the neighborhoods of Heritage Hills, Mesta Park, Jefferson Park, and Paseo.  For me, this is again, a critical feature of any transit investment. Additionally, as I'll dive into more in a minute, by connecting to the 23rd Crosstown route, you are significantly improving the experience of those riders -- again, a economic group that could benefit greatly with enhanced access to downtown amenities. For them, this route would signify a quality of life opportunity they don't currently have in today's network.  
  • 23rd Crosstown Transfer: The busiest bus route in all of Oklahoma City is Route 23, "23rd Street Crosstown". It services major destinations like OU Medical Center (Health Science District), Shepherd Mall, the State Capitol Complex, and Oklahoma City University.  I propose this route come to 23rd in large part because of Route 23.  Since the 23 doesn't go to the downtown transit center, all riders who want to access downtown amenities must transfer to another bus. I've personally done this several times. Routes that transfer to the 23 are the 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 18, 19,and the 38.  What this means is that if you want to get to downtown, you must transfer to another bus line. This is where it can be very time consuming.  Most of these routes are running 45-60 minute frequencies.  This makes getting to downtown sometimes very time consuming.  Creating a frequent, and respectful way to get downtown from the entire 23rd Street Corridor would be a significant transit improvement for the entire city.  I'd go farther and say we should celebrate the 'marriage' of these two transit corridors with a very nice stop/transfer station at Walker & 23rd.  Integrate it with a new building there (perhaps on the SE corner?).  True TOD in an area ripe for it. With an improvement and amenity like that, Walker & 23rd intersection could become a major destination for pedestrians, cyclists, and of course transit riders. I wouldn't be surprised to see Traffic Engineers eventually decide to put in a roundabout there or enhance the intersection at least with large crosswalks and nice wide sidewalks surrounding it. Lots of good urban fabric here to work with and good thing too -- it is a major amenity corridor to the transit community. 
  • Three for the price of one: This proposal actually allows you to modify streetcar activity so as to create two different routes.  Three really if you consider the first whole route as scenario #1. If we double track Walker Ave. all the way to Reno, you can isolate both the Walker spine the Downtown couplet.  This is a pretty substantial advantage for a couple reasons.  One, if we find that most people get on the streetcar at 23rd and then don't take it east at all on Sheridan, then it may make more sense to add capacity to just the Walker spine during peak travel times. This could be an Downtown Express route option. I can see this option being very popular for commuters.  A second advantage to this particular feature is that during times of heavy downtown and Bricktown activity, capacity could also be added to the couplet to help move people east and west.  This is particularly useful for all the people staying in Hotels in Bricktown and during nights when major concerts or sport events begin or let out.  Thousands of people move toward parking structures and this could be beneficial for moving those people faster and more efficiently.  This image just shows you how you can view the route as two separate routes.

  • Logical Expansion: This is probably worthy of an entire blog post. A very logical expansion of this route would be to continue to the Walker line down to SW 25th in Capitol Hill. The total track distance to get there would be the same as the current route is.  It would capture another huge population center in OKC, and connect a great commercial district to downtown.  I know many friends who enjoy going down to Capitol Hill for some of the great ethnic food you can find there.  A south expansion would further connect riders to the Central Park, the new convention center, Wiley Post Park, Wheeler Park, the Oklahoma River, Mount St. Mary High School, and then of course, Capitol Hill.  
One of the two objections I've received with this route has to do with the roundabout at 10th & Walker.  It's understandable that it would be as we don't see a lot of roundabouts around here here (sorry for the mistaken pun) much less roundabouts that interact with rail vehicles in any way.  It isn't common but certainly doable and it is done elsewhere. You can go right through the middle or sometimes the rail goes through an approach.  This roundabout in Jensen Beach Florida has a heavy rail line running through it. 

Indeed.  I'm seeing more and more people using these new lanes in and around Downtown OKC.  Likewise, the sharrows that are being installed just outside of the P180 footprint are equally inspiring.  

Changing Planning Perspective

What if all planning decisions were made from the sidewalk?  

I mean literally, from the sidewalk. Like modern day inspectors, our planners and respective planning commissioners should walk the site, the neighborhood, perhaps knock on a few doors, and then make recommendations.  

Heartland Flyer Ridership Up 6% -- Twice the National Average

The numbers are improving for OKC's Heartland Flyer route.  It shows ridership up 6% while ridership is up nationally 3.5%.  Heartland added 4,278 new riders in October-July of FY12 which increased ticket revenues by almost 11%. Unfortunately, on-time performance went from 83.3% (FY11) to 63.9% (FY12).  A reduction of 19.3%!

Full Report

Erosion of Liberty via Political Parties

So, being someone who doesn't own a car and doesn't drive. What ID do you want me to carry/maintain so that I might have the keep my right to vote? 

Do I also need to be in good standing with any political party as well? 

This is why Washington didn't like parties. He saw them as a way to eventually erode the sovereignty of government. Today, party politics is re-writing the rules of our society, and not in an attempt to improve our liberty. Our public liberty. 

The most fitting words of Washington:

"The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."

Out Of The Mouths of Tourists

Walking through Bricktown today I spotted a couple of folks taking pictures of the Devon Tower from inside of Bricktown.  The tower was especially stunning today with the blue skies and white puffy clouds reflecting back down upon OKC.

I took the opportunity to remark on how beautiful it was as as I walked by.  They heartily agreed  and were quick to offer up the fact that they were not from here.  Quickly they asked, do you know the best way to enter the canal so that they could see the entire canal from start to finish.  My destination was going to take my right by the splash park on Sheridan so I offered to get them started on their way.

During our short stroll they informed me that they were tourists from Los Angeles and travel the world quite a bit.  They were intrigued by how pretty Oklahoma City was.  One of them remarked that Bricktown was very similar to some smaller cities in Europe around Amsterdam with the canals.

"But with more cars!" the second one giggled.  

I've spent time in Delft and can relate to how beautiful canal streets are, lined with beautiful brick shops, apartments, and large cobblestone plazas that seem to find you no matter the direction you are headed.  I was glad to hear they liked Bricktown but was also saddened to know that these tourists were going to leave Oklahoma City with the impression (factual albeit) that OKC is a nice town with too many cars.

The irony is that they live in LA, I know.  

Apathetic Citizen

Oh, no sir. I'm not apathetic.  I am quite passionate about what I believe and work very hard to further that cause.  Just because I dislike bigoted speeches and distortion-rooted politics and wont attend your meeting doesn't mean I lack vision and purpose for my country.  I participate in town hall meetings that are usually held in backyards of friends or at round tables in coffee shops.  My block captain is my city councilor and we have a convention regularly at City Hall.  We discuss the issues facing our neighborhoods and we seek to work with others in authority to find solutions.  The only money I give is to the local non-profits that don't spend money on TV ads, but instead feed the hungry and help improve the city I live in.  There is no blame game at the sidewalk level.  Just us and our desire to create a better community, a better country, for our children.

#allpoliticsislocal  #therestisjustascam

War On Suburbia?


Arguments like this are just too funny.  For about 60 years, there has been a war on cities.  Only now, cities are starting to fight back.  It is, as my literature teacher would say, "the ultimate irony" to claim that cities are trying to take away from the suburbs when it takes far more tax dollars per capita to support suburbia.

Basic patterns and standards used to exist to keep cities efficient so that local governments could afford to provide basic services to everyone.  Now, roads, water lines, et al. installed in former generations are all ready to be replaced and surprisingly, we have out-scaled our tax bases in most cities and there simply isn't enough revenue.

Is the answer to raise taxes or re-scale our cities so that they can support themselves going forward?  I certainly prefer the later.