View Full Version : Light Rail in OKC

08-13-2005, 07:39 AM
I searched for a thread on this, but did not find one-- so I started one!

I think if gas prices continue to rise, this can only help our cause. I think to be successful, it would need to have a few stops downtown/Bricktown, OUHSC, State Capitol, each of the hospitals, NW Exp at LHP and Penn, and Quail Springs Corp park and mall). Each of the Universities would also be a good idea (A couple stops on OU's campus would be great for football and basketball games).

Anyway, here is a story from newsok:

Price at pump boosts interest in mass transit

By Bryan Dean
The Oklahoman

Transit officials hope more people will be tempted to ride the bus as gas prices skyrocket.

Show Video

The combination of record gas prices and free fares on ozone alert days has spiked ridership on Metro Transit buses, spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

Ford said the increased attention is a mixed blessing.

"With gas prices going up, it affects Metro Transit as well, because we pay the same gas prices as everyone else," Ford said. "We have gotten a lot of inquiries from first-time riders."

Metro Transit also coordinates car pool efforts, matching people for car pools and working with employers to start car pool programs.

Ford said those interested in riding the bus for the first time can call Metro Transit for route information. Transit staff can even put an itinerary together to get first-time riders to their destinations as quickly as possible.

Gas prices are also fueling interest in light rail. Civic leaders have been talking about light rail for years, and it is part of an ongoing $1 million study looking at the area's long-term transportation needs.

Ford said attendance at public meetings discussing the plan has grown as the summer wears on and gas prices continue to rise.

Dean Schirf, vice president of government relations for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has been considering light rail for about three years.

"I've been saying for a long time that the best chance for light rail in our community is probably $4 per gallon gasoline," Schirf said. "Gas prices weren't really an overriding factor when we got involved in it."

Schirf said the study has already shown that there are corridors in the area where a "fixed guideway" system might be needed. "Fixed guideways" could mean light rail, high occupancy vehicle lanes or other modes of mass transit.

"There is a segment of our leadership that feels like light rail should be very seriously looked at because we are a growing city," Schirf said. "I don't think what's happening out there with fuel prices is going to hurt this study."

08-13-2005, 04:32 PM
Been there, done that. Union Station already has all the corridors necessary for light rail. I don't know how OKC is going to have light rail after they destroy Union Station.

08-13-2005, 05:49 PM
How does any city without existing rail lines do it?

We'll do it that way.

08-13-2005, 06:10 PM
Oklahoma City always does it backwards and the most expensive. They'll either use BRT's (Bus Rapid Transit) or rebuild another station somewhere around 20 miles south. Once they destroy the station it'll be too expensive to rebuild one so they're probably going to do BRT's.

08-13-2005, 08:16 PM
Out of curiosity, do Dallas, San Antonio or Kansas City have light rail?

08-14-2005, 04:24 AM
I know the Dallas Metroplex does.

08-14-2005, 12:52 PM
Dallas has DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit). It's a pretty good system, all things considered, though it loses about three bucks on every rider (as does the DART bus, to be fair).

San Antonio's VIA is buses only, as is the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

08-14-2005, 01:29 PM
I wonder why San Antonio and KC didn't see it as necessary, but some here feel like OKC needs it.

08-14-2005, 01:33 PM

Here are some of my thoughts about light rail in OKC (and some comments from this and other threads).

OKC can have a light rail streetcar downtown! OKC has similar demographics to Portland OR and they spurred downtown success with (what else) their Portland Streetcar circular system! OKC should do the same - Union Station is not required!!!

To those of you who said you need critical mass for light rail - I have to say, if you wait for the critical mass then you are too late! Light rail and metro systems CREATE critical mass! They are responsible for urban development (especially when the city has proper zoning in place). A light rail circular system in Downtown OKC that is attractive would create critical mass downtown just like Portland's Streetcar has!

To those of you who think OKC is too small to support a light rail, I can come up with a number of cities smaller and equal size to us that have it. Tacoma WA is smaller but has a downtown circular, as does equal sized Portland OR. Equal Denver has a commuter light rail (as does Portland). Even little rock is getting a heritage trolley (and El Reno has one as well).

To those of you bent out of shape regarding Union Station, I have one thing to say - we really dont need it for light rail! Portland OR MAX (a good model for light rail, huh) does not have a hub. It has a maintenance facility but downtown there is no hub! It acts like a circular, running down a pseudo pedestrian shopping mall, turns around, and heads the other way (or keeps going a difft direction out of downtown). Union Station would be useful for Commuter Rail, which often uses heavy rail technology (not light rail like MAX). In fact, most light rail systems dont go to a train station like Union, they circulate in downtown! No worries about the I-40 crosstown relocation!!!

To sum up, OKC does have the population to support light rail. Existing critical mass is not necessary for the success of the line. Park N Ride stations could be built in the suburbs to CREATE critical mass for a commuter light rail system.

What OKC direly needs is a downtown circular line similar to Portland Streetcar! Union Station is not necessary for this or a commuter light rail line as most light rail lines circulate in downtown and dont go to a train station (it's too far from downtown CBD anyway). Union Station is useful for Commuter Heavy Rail, which IMO is years away for Downtown OKC!!! However, light rail is needed NOW.

OKC should first build a downtown circular - build it NOW!!!!

08-14-2005, 01:38 PM
Here are the links to Portland's transit systems:

Portland Streetcar (downtown circular)

Portland MAX Light Rail (commuter light rail)

Notice how both circulate downtown, and how MAX builds critical mass with park n rides and city centre stations in the suburbs!!! Portland Streetcar has created a downtown urban landscape!!!

Are you listening, OKC??????

08-14-2005, 02:48 PM

Still not interested. Costs too far exceed the limited benefits. Money could be better invested in other more pressing areas.

08-14-2005, 07:34 PM
Costs compared to what??? What other areas???

Dungeon Master
08-15-2005, 06:24 AM
I'm willing to bet most wouldn't use any transport system we now have or soon to come or parking wouldn't be an issue.
We're spoiled. Does the bus stop by the coffee shop? I sure could use a cup. Does it stop by to get my dry cleaning? Can I smoke on it?
Yes, some already ride the bus but we aren't like some of those cities that has had major transportation systems in place since they were kids. It's already a way of life for them.
How about China or Japan, would you wake up earlier so you could ride your bike to work? Just a few here do that but I'm willing to bet again that most wouldn't even think about it if it were a change to their ways of life.
Today's life is all about convenience and self control.
Again, if we all took advantage of the transportation systems already in place there wouldn't be the topic "parking issue".

08-15-2005, 06:58 AM
I'm willing to bet most wouldn't use any transport system we now have or soon to come or parking wouldn't be an issue.
We're spoiled. Does the bus stop by the coffee shop? I sure could use a cup. Does it stop by to get my dry cleaning? Can I smoke on it?
Yes, some already ride the bus but we aren't like some of those cities that has had major transportation systems in place since they were kids. It's already a way of life for them.
How about China or Japan, would you wake up earlier so you could ride your bike to work? Just a few here do that but I'm willing to bet again that most wouldn't even think about it if it were a change to their ways of life.
Today's life is all about convenience and self control.
Again, if we all took advantage of the transportation systems already in place there wouldn't be the topic "parking issue".
Precisely. Use of the current mass transit should give some indication of any other future forms of mass transit. We are a spread out community that's accustomed to driving wherever we want to go.

As others have mentioned previously, our biggest hurdle is that our population density is so low. It would be hard to have a practical, efficient light rail system. Just because it works in other cities with comparable populations doesn't mean it will work here. Additionally, there doesn't seem to be much demand for it. It would be a pretty high-cost gamble. I just don't believe it's worth it.

08-15-2005, 07:03 AM
Costs compared to what??? What other areas???

Costs compared to other forms of mass transit or other improvents. Or simply, costs compared to the perceived benefits an analysis of the cost-benefits ratio; there should be a sufficient benefit to outweigh the tremendous cost.

Other areas would include much-needed fixes and upgrades to existing infrastructure, including crumbling streets and bridges, even in the Downtown/Bricktown area.

08-15-2005, 07:10 AM
No. In Oklahoma City the problem is that most people think only "poor" people ride the bus and other mass transit. Well, guess what. I spent $35.00 filling a truck with gas that cost me $15.00 to fill when I bought the thing. If we had rapid transit, I would use it because I can not really afford to go anywhere anymore because of the price of gas. One date is nearly a half tank.

We need to re-educate people and get that low class mentality out of their minds. THEN rapid transit will work. We can plan it now, and by the time it is on line, the majority will have gotten those incorrect ideas out of their minds.

08-15-2005, 08:45 AM
I agree,

If Metro Transit had more convenient schedules and a route that didnt require me to go downtown to go three miles to work I would use it everyday.

08-15-2005, 09:01 AM
How much does the bus cost here?

Dungeon Master
08-15-2005, 09:32 AM
If a person chooses not to use the carpool method, what makes you think that person will use another transit system besides their own vehicle.
I have a 4X4 full size truck that eats the gas, but I have no intentions to change my transportation on someone else's schedule. It's my life and I'll live it on my own time, not someone else's. And I'm sure there are a lot of people who might think the same way (I could be wrong). Besides, I'm a terrible back seat driver.
Our state is not heavy in carpooling which is somewhat proof we are set in our ways.
The price of gas keeps going up, so I (like most other I'm sure) will scrape the pennies form other spending activities to keep my way of life from changing.
You don't ever see someone holding a cardboard sign saying, "need ride to downtown". Maybe that's the next new thing to come. "Will work for transportation to work". I'll start making signs right a way.


08-15-2005, 10:20 PM
I know, it's pretty much out of the question... Nevertheless, I think it would be cool to have an elevated train zipping above neighborhoods and connecting major centers. For example, you wouldn't have to tear up any roads or anything, just use the median of NW Expy or Classen or Interstates even. Las Vegas just installed a monorail that goes up and down the strip.

I think some sort of rail transit from Norman to Edmond, from El Reno to MWC and from downtown up NW expy along with major stops on each route would be a great starting point. This would take a lot of strain off the bus system and our current buses could then run more frequently over shorter distances in a more thorough area so that when you did get to your destination via rail you could just hop on a bus to get even closer to where you wanna go.

Make sense?

08-16-2005, 11:35 AM
As long as Americans continue to love their cars and refuse to use more efficient forms of transportation, demand for gas will continue to increase, and prices will rise. Gas-guzzling SUV's only worsen the problem. If everyone would switch to a mass transit type system, we wouldn't have quite the problems we have now.

A friend of mine recently came back from Beijing, China. Believe it or not, those folks are pretty forward minded in the way they develop their land. They put up 20-30 story apartment buildings in places where plenty of available land exists. And basically everything anyone would ever need is within walking distance. In Beijing, pretty much everything is connected by a mass transit system.

We need to follow their lead. Building more dense developments and stopping urban sprawl would help reduce or dependency on gas.

08-16-2005, 12:29 PM
OKC is such a spread-out city that I doubt that mass transit will ever catch on here. Its just too inconvenient not having a vehicle to use. I think about things like having to leave in an emergency or run errands during lunch. Its not like you can walk outside and immediately hail a taxi like in Manhatten.

08-16-2005, 12:38 PM
OKC is such a spread-out city that I doubt that mass transit will ever catch on here. Its just too inconvenient not having a vehicle to use. I think about things like having to leave in an emergency or run errands during lunch. Its not like we have taxis roaming all over like in Manhatten.

Technically we HAVE mass transit. What we need is RAPID transit. It would be a combination of light rail or subway (or both) in the main populated areas and a railroad to the outlining areas as far as El Reno, Guthrie, Purcell, and Shawnee.

Systems like this are used all over the country and work well. In fact, the Dallas-Ft. Worth area has a rail between the two major cities. Boston has a rail that goes from Second Street Station to the outlining areas, and other cities have these as well. So, in an area that has a large amount of rural area, this system works well.

08-17-2005, 06:31 PM
That's why we need Union Station. Tracks are everywhere. Tulsa, Lawton, Shawnee, El Reno, etc, etc, etc.

Get a high speed commuter train going and I'll give up my car. However that's not what the highway or the car industry wants.

08-17-2005, 09:11 PM
We probably don't have the density for urban rail transit yet, but we probably have enough to support commuter rail.

One thing many people continue to overlook when conducting these phantom "feasability studies" (which appear rigged by Istook to come up with negative conclusions about rail in OKC) is that rail actually STIMULATES greater density.

That is what has happened in places like Dallas (definitely an automobile city). The rail was so popular as to actually stimulate development along the rail corridors.

In just a few short years, DART went from being a popular local joke in Dallas to a driver of new urban development. All of the outlying cities are jockeying to be connected to it.

It is a major success story, and many of the holier-than-thou know-it-alls had essentially declared it a boondoggle, citing their worthless feasability studies. As ridership exploded beyond all expectations, that has clearly not been the case. DART has, by any measure, been an unmitigated success for the City of Dallas.

But don't tell idiots like Istook. I secretly believe they don't actually want OKC to become a major city. They "like it just like it is" and don't want to see it grow. To allow citizens to actually embrace the concept that they live in a major metropolitan area is somehow threatening to this group of troglodytes.

08-17-2005, 09:19 PM
No we can do it. We needed to start planning ten years ago now that gas is getting stupid and all the people who set the price should be doing time for grand theft.

Two or three routes from Moore to Edmond, Yukon to Midwest City could work at first. The transfer station could be near Baptist.

08-18-2005, 09:11 AM
We probably don't have the density for urban rail transit yet, but we probably have enough to support commuter rail.

I agree with that. It makes more sense economically and functionally at this point. And then if you do bring in commuters by rail, an urban light rail system would work to supplement that in the future.

08-18-2005, 11:01 AM
However to get the governor to 'BE' a governor and stop Union Station's destruction is another story.

08-18-2005, 04:15 PM
Is Union Station being torn down? I thought it was just the rail yard behind it that was going.

08-18-2005, 04:56 PM
The actual Union Station building will remain intact after the I-40 realignment.

08-18-2005, 05:30 PM
That's where the confusion comes in. How does a train roll 'INTO' a station without its tracks? It doesn't. 2/3's of Union Station will be destroyed leaving just the depot behind.

The station isn't the building like Istook, the Dark Tower, ACOG and the Chamber wants you to believe.

08-19-2005, 01:49 PM
Most city leaders claim that Union Station is too far South to be used for commuter rail transit. What they forget is that once I-40 is move South, Union Station will be perfectly located for this use. I just don't understand why they couldn't move the highway a little further south or north to avoid removing the rail yard.

08-19-2005, 01:53 PM
That's what a lot of people are questioning. It doesn't make sense. Not unless the city leaders DON'T want mass/rapid transit.

In Governor Bellmon's era, Union Station was reported to be perfectly suited for OKC's mass transit needs. But after Keating got into office, that quickly changed.

08-20-2005, 03:29 PM
that was my question also, why couldnt they align the freeway a block north to save the rail yard????


08-20-2005, 03:32 PM
They want that station, the part that ecompasses the tracks, destroyed. Can we say 'oil companies'? How else are they going to protect themselves from a decrease of oil consumption?

08-20-2005, 04:04 PM
If you look at the original study, there were several alignments being studied. I think they chose alignment "D" for the lower ROW costs. The proposed alignments corridor goes through some unused land by the river, some housing areas that could probably safely be considered blighted, an abandoned rail yard, and several low density industries and salvage yards. Moving the alignment north would put it through many more businesses including the cotton coop, and moving it south would put it through more housing and possibly a historic church (much more difficult to get ROW from). Although when they picked this alignment, I don't think they realized they would also have to bridge the canal.

Also, keeping the new highway just south of the UP rail line eliminates the need to go under or over the line (the current I40 crosses this line twice, in addition to the elevated BNSF line). I believe the deciding factor was when the BN and SF rail lines merged, which would allow them to consolidate their lines and eliminate the two rail lines that go south over the river from the old Union Station rail yard, and keep these lines south of the river.

That is the history as I understand it. I still question this alignment choice however, since they are having to do a lot of rail relocation. And given the high cost of this project, I'm not convinced that it was the right choice. I think it may have been more of an effort to bring money in from the feds.

08-20-2005, 04:07 PM
But why the short term goal instead of looking at the long term goal? That has always been Oklahoma's biggest mistake besides chosing this realignment.

08-20-2005, 04:20 PM
If and when OKC gets some type of rail transit, it would more than likely be seperate from the state, so their goals can be diffeent. Solving problems with heavily used infrastructure is the states immediate goal. OKC doesn't yet have any serious or realistic goal to use the rail yard. The passenger rail yard probably hasn't been used since the late sixties, and was in decline for several decades before that. I really can't blame ODOT for veiwing it as wasted space.

08-20-2005, 04:22 PM
ODOT's empty heads are wasted space.

08-22-2005, 12:10 PM
No argument there!

Tom Elmore
05-21-2008, 01:31 PM
You have to understand the true history of the situation.

Of ODOT's apparently inexplicable "plan" to destroy OKC Union Station's usefulness, many -- once standing on Platform 2 in the middle of the OKCUS rail yard -- have said, "This makes no sense. Why would they do this?"

Of course it makes sense. We just have to be willing to "look at the sense it makes."

The Union Station terminal building was purchased -- way back in 1989 -- by COTPA. It cost the agency nothing. They made the case for the facility as our regional transit center, and thus won a $1.2 million grand from the Federal Transit Administration. Among those writing letters in support? Bellmon Transportation Secretary Neal A. McCaleb.

So why would McCaleb and company, less than 10 years later (just one of the many disastrous consequences of "the Keating Administration"), write off the rail yard -- and determine to put four miles of expressway through it?

Why would ODOT, in its cardboard-front "comparative route study," give Union Station a numerical value of "zero?"

The value of Union Station is intrinsic -- and self evident. In assigning this "value" to such an obvious treasure, the debt kings at ODOT were actually "rating themselves."

Then there was Bob Blackburn and Melvena Heisch of the State Historic Preservation Office -- who, in their statutory role to rate the negatives, glibly said, in effect, "the complete destruction of the Union Station rail yard -- which was the actual historic triumph of OKCUS -- will not negatively affect the historic setting or function of OKC Union Station...."

What did this ugly, crass and completely transparent betrayal get them? What was the quid pro quo?

Perhaps ... "a new historical museum building?"

Think about it -- "destroy the real deal to build a place to put photos of it...."

But, back to the challenge. It all "makes sense." We just have to be willing to look, candidly, at the "sense it makes."

Garner Stoll warned them. Dr. Dan Monaghan of the DART Board of Directors warned them. Denver Transit warned them. The Mayor of Salt Lake warned them. These warnings were no surprise to McCaleb and company. They already knew very well what they were doing -- and why.

It is apparently very, very important to ODOT to destroy the OKC Union Station rail yard -- and, especially, the Robinson and Walker underpasses, which are "nearly 80 years old and functioning just fine, thank you" -- unlike so much "ODOT infrastructure..."

A few years back, OKLAHOMAN columnist Ann DeFrange interviewed documentary historian Robert Jackson, employed at that time by Parsons Brinkerhoff, and assigned to "photograph" the historic assets in the "New Crosstown Corridor" as a means of "mitigating their proposed destruction...." Horrified by what she saw, DeFrange asked Jackson -- "Why?" "Well, Ann, highway builders don't care what they destroy," he told her.

For speaking this truth -- which was printed in DeFrange's column -- Jackson's pay was reportedly threatened by ODOT until he "reinterviewed" with the columnist and "altered his statement."

Still -- "a little light got under the door." But did anybody in Oklahoma notice, or care?

Late state Supreme Court Justice Alma Wilson called it as it was, and is, when she called the massive, illegal bond-indebtedness involved in Neal McCaleb's "billion dollar highway package" of 1997 -- ....evil, then warning that it would inevitably lead to more evil, more misuse of the taxpayers for the benefit of the special interests.

She was absolutely right -- and ODOT's ongoing, hell-for-leather effort to get "the kitty as far out on the limb as possible" with a highway project it knows it can't afford, is absolute proof of the out-of-control evil set in motion by Neal McCaleb and his minions.

We need a suspension of this project -- and full federal grand jury investigation. ODOT needs to be inverted, shaken out -- and the fallout vigorously prosecuted.

Anybody for "accountable government?"

By the way -- if you want to see some of the background and documents to which I've referred, check North American Transportation Institute's website. Also check "nomoron" (dot-com), and look at the Union Station section.

On the opening page of the NATI website are a lot of video and sound files you may find interesting.


05-21-2008, 01:36 PM
Why are these posts so long to read, I don't have that great of an attention span.

And I learned this today, COTPA means "Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority"

05-21-2008, 02:34 PM
Frequent exposure to TV before age 4 (including educational programs) = ADHD and/or short attention span... Exposure during preschool development to <20 seconds before screen change interferes in the brain's ability to maintain attention beyond that time (contrast the pace of Indy movies vs. the Wizard of Oz). Such exposure undermines the development of circuitry necessary to maintain concentration beyond about 6 sentences or 20 seconds...

I wouldn't let my kids NEAR the TV (subject matter doesn't matter) prior to age 3.5...

05-21-2008, 03:21 PM
Everybody is a conspiracy theorist.

05-21-2008, 03:35 PM
Frequent exposure to TV before age 4 (including educational programs) = ADHD and/or short attention span...

Depends on the study. Nothing has been conclusive. Many studies have also shown a significant improvement in test scores for kids who watched educational programming starting at age 2 over those who did not.

Such is the way of behavioral studies....

What was this about again?

05-21-2008, 03:52 PM
The REAL topic to this post is "WE" as citizens want to continue our travels around the downtown area but without the bite in our a$$es from the cost of fuel. As well as tagging on the fact that we would like a faster more simple way of travel in and out of the downtown area to are respected suburbs.

It also makes one want to figure the cost comparison of just continuing to pay for gas as it increases in a "5 steps forward, 3 steps back" price hike to the cost of parking fees, where applicable, riding fairs, possible taxes to build a light rail system, and other unforeseen fees accompanied by this.

All the while we argue about an old train station.. :]

05-21-2008, 04:07 PM
Tom, why are you resurrecting old threads? The last post on this was in 2005...and this isn't the first on the topic of Union Station/Rail/I-40 that you have done this month.

I appreciate what The North American Transportation Institute and you are trying to do in saving the rail lines at Union Station...but why are you here resurrecting dead threads on this topic, when we all know that ground has already been broken on the new Crosstown Expressway, and that stopping progress on that is more than likely not going to happen? Isn't it like beating a dead horse.

Like I said, I would like to see Union Station's Rail Lines stay intact but I am not going to continue to beat the drum for that issue once it has passed...that would be like contentiously complaining about the way the vote went on the MAPS tax (I supported MAPS, just using as an example)

So please Tom, no offense, but stop resurrecting old threads on this issue.