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  1. #101

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Quote Originally Posted by shawnw View Post
    Why more studies? The work acog has already had done seems quite good
    I agree. ACOG has done a great job over the last ten years undertaking numerous relevant studies...Fixed Guideway Study...Intermodal Hub Study...Commuter Corridors Study...to lay the groundwork for where we are today. In addition, Embark has undertaken various transit studies, including the Downtown Circulator Analysis, Transit Service Analysis and NW Corridor Multimodal Plan.

    However, some of the information in those studies is either out-of date, too general or lacking. Before the RTA can approach the cities with a proposal to seek a vote for a permanent dedicated funding source for developing and operating a regional transit system, it needs to determine more precisely what that system will look like and the costs involved in creating it.

    The previous studies provided us with general guidance, but not much in the way of detailed engineering feasibility analysis or infrastructure costs or operational funding needs. As one example, there has previously been no detailed engineering analysis to determine the feasibility and costs of implementing commuter rail service in the BNSF right-of-way between Edmond, Norman and OKC. Past studies have provided some general estimates, but now we need real hard numbers.

    More importantly, the RTA needs to develop an up-to-date comprehensive transit system plan that includes all transit modes. That doesn't mean we need to start back at square one and reinvent the wheel. But we do need to update, revise, expand and assimilate all of the data from the previous studies into a single system plan and then undertake the necessary detailed engineering and cost analysis. The RTA and participating cities won't be willing to ask the voters to fund a regional transit system until we have a very good understanding of what that system will look like and how much it will cost to build and operate.

    I'm as tired of undertaking new studies as everyone else. But it's especially critical at this point that we have all of the necessary detailed information.

  2. #102
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    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Makes sense. I just worry about the votes as it is with the municipalities. Voting for tax dollars to go to transit is going to take time to be palatable for most. I think it may well fail in some areas. Spending the initial seed money on studies seems like it might add fuel to the complaint fire and further adversely impact votes. Personally I do get that we need that engineering level detail. Just saying it all feels like a very fragile thing at the moment.

  3. #103

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    The RTA will utilize recent state statute revisions to create a special regional transit district for taxing and voting purposes. There will be a single vote within the entirety of the RTD to determine approval of the RTA funding proposal. It will not be a vote on a city-by-city basis.

    Even so, successful timing and passage of the referendum will not be easy. State law only allows RTD funding by local sales tax. And based on a preliminary detailed analysis done by URS a few years ago, it will require a minimum of 1/2-cent to develop and operate the currently planned transit system. That means another local sales tax on top of the various temporary and permanent sales taxes that are already been in place in each city. That alone will require significant analysis and coordination between the cities to determine optimum timing for a regional vote, and then for the RTA and those cities to develop a successful education and marketing campaign to ensure passage.

    Having been involved in a number of municipal sales tax propositions, we've got a much greater chance of success if the voters have the necessary information to understand the specifics of the services and benefits they will receive, as well as the costs involved and how their tax dollars are to be spent. It's critical that we use the remaining seed money that the RTA will have to work with over the next few years to get those answers before we move forward with a campaign and a vote.

    As for the fragility of things, it's something that we've all gotten used to over the years. It seems that all of the various transit-related projects and efforts that have taken place until now have felt like fragile processes. I don't see that changing as we try to get the various city councils to approve the trust indenture, and then ultimately to get the voters to approve a funding measure. It's just the nature of the beast. Dallas, Denver and Salt Lake City all had similar challenges and they successfully navigated those. I'm confident we'll succeed too.

  4. #104
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    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Oh good. I thought it was going to be city by city. Whew! Thanks as always for your insight.

    Ouch on the half cent. Maybe MAPS 4, which would need to start collecting in 2020, can be .5 cent instead of 1 cent and just collect longer, and the remaining .5 cent can go to RTA. Same ballot even maybe, in 2019.

  5. #105

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Since city services will be overlapped by the RTA, (transit) could the city lower its tax as it would not need to fund buses on its own. (I.e. lower the city sales tax by half a cent)

  6. Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Actually, that brings up a very important question: All of the various entities involved in the planning process up to this point have been working on the RTA for quite some time, as Hutch mentioned. Let's assume for a second that when it comes time to ask voters to fund the system, the vote fails. Are there contingency plans in place - something like a funding source to carry operations long enough to revise the RTA's game plan and make a new pitch to voters? My fear is similar to shawnw's - I don't want to see the decade plus of work be lost if voters don't approve the funding on the first go 'round.

    One of the things I am really excited about - aside from commuter rail, that is - that if the new RTA absorbs the existing bus systems or begins coordinating the systems, that this will have a very real chance of improving our bus network in very short order. Hopefully we can add some new routes to fill in the gaps, which I also hope would allow existing routes to be more direct and less convoluted (shortening trip times) - as well as routes that would make it easier to cross to different routes without having to connect through the downtown transit center.

  7. #107

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Quote Originally Posted by catch22 View Post
    Since city services will be overlapped by the RTA, (transit) could the city lower its tax as it would not need to fund buses on its own. (I.e. lower the city sales tax by half a cent)
    My personal opinion, but I think having the cities still operate their own bus service is better for transit users. It gives them more options and more services. Having each city operate their bus services creates a better service for that specific city and RTA can better focus on the metro as a whole.

  8. #108

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Maybe this has been pointed out... but the consolidation of agencies and assets dramatically improves the ability to pursue federal matching dollars historically. Not having an RTA has affected our ability to pursue significant funds in years past.

  9. #109

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Im speaking from my experience using Metro which isLos Angeles. They operate their own bus service but also you have cities that have Metro buses have their own service as well which sometimes runs more frequently than Metro in some situations.

  10. #110

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Urban is correct. Our consultant has explained to us how OKC's lack of an RTA severely limits our ability to get federal funds. The FTA has a longstanding policy of directing most of its dollars to cities with comprehensive regional transit systems.

    Further, disregarding its name, the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority is not a regional authority. Its actually chartered under state statutes as a city trust. It's essentially the transportation and parking department for OKC. As such, it receives minimal federal funding. In addition, as OKC has no permanent dedicated funding source for COTPA, it must fund COTPA's operating budget out of OKC's general fund. If you want to know the bottom-line as to why it's been such a struggle to even minimally improve OKC's bus system, it's the fact OKC can't afford to spend the tens of millions of dollars necessary out of their general fund to build a more comprehensive system. My hat's off to Jason Ferbrache and Embark for accomplishing as much as they have with the bus system on a limited budget.

    As a contrast, UTA's 2018 budget for the Salt Lake City regional bus system was $97,522,000 out of its total budget of $227,669,000 to provide service for 120 routes using 400 buses, on 15 and 30 minute frequencies. COTPA's budget for its 2018 bus service was $7,493,141 out of its total budget of $36,887,863 to provide service for 19 routes using 60 buses, on 30 and 60 minute frequencies. UTA funds its transit system with a 0.6875-cent dedicated transit sales tax. COTPA is at the mercy of the annual general fund budgetary process of OKC. Further, with the commencement of streetcar service at the end of this year, COTPA has added an additional $4,000,000 to its operating budget for 2019, resulting in OKC struggling to cover that increase out of its general fund. Similar general fund budgetary challenges are found in Norman's and Edmond's efforts to provide local bus service.

    If one of the goals is to expand and improve local bus service, as well as to extend the streetcar system, that's likely not going to happen without creating an RTA to operate all transit services and passing a dedicated transit sales tax to fund all transit operations, as it will be difficult for OKC to continue to substantially increase their annual commitments to transit operations out of their general fund.

  11. #111

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Quote Originally Posted by shawnw View Post
    Oh good. I thought it was going to be city by city. Whew! Thanks as always for your insight.

    Ouch on the half cent. Maybe MAPS 4, which would need to start collecting in 2020, can be .5 cent instead of 1 cent and just collect longer, and the remaining .5 cent can go to RTA. Same ballot even maybe, in 2019.
    Bingo.

    I've been suggesting this solution for quite some time. It's likely the only way we'll ever be able to pass a successful RTA funding initiative. As long as the full one-cent continues to be renewed for MAPS, it will be extremely difficult to get the voters to approve an additional permanent 1/2-cent transit sales tax. If MAPS 4 gets approved at the full one-cent, an RTA funding initiative and regional transit system will likely not happen for another decade or more. Most everyone agrees that we simply can't wait until 2030 to get going.

    OKC, Norman, Edmond, Moore, Midwest City and Del City all have existing and anticipated temporary and permanent sales tax burdens and initiatives. Deciding on an RTA referendum date that integrates with the plans of all of the participating municipalities will be challenging. As OKC is the largest participating member of the RTA and the central core city of the regional transit system, the decision as to when we move forward clearly rests in their hands and we can't move forward without them.

    Representatives of the other participating cities have expressed their strong interest in moving forward as soon as possible. The economy is booming. Public support for transit is high. And the city councils and chambers of commerce of those cities are behind the effort. On the other hand, OKC leaders remain much more hesitant to commit. The thought of relinquishing city control of their transit department to a regional authority bothers some. The idea of splitting the MAPS tax to fund a transit system causes heartburn for others. Some are worried about political risk and uncertainties. And a few still think that there's no congestion and that we don't need a regional transit system. Whatever the concerns, the fact remains that we don't get going until OKC leadership decides its time to get going. Let's hope that's sooner rather than later.

    There will never be a perfect time to hold a vote and there will always be a risk of failure. Every other city that has developed a regional transit system has had to deal with the same risks, concerns and uncertainties, and they succeeded. I'm confident we can too.

    One last thought on timing for a vote. There will likely never be a greater opportunity to take full advantage of public excitement and support for transit to pass an RTA funding referendum then in the first year or so after the streetcar begins operations and Santa Fe Station is up and running.

  12. #112

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Should each city retain control of it's bus system, would a rider have to purchase tickets/passes for each different system rather than having on pass that works on all buses/trains? I would think it would be easier for riders/tourists if they only had to pay into one system or buy one pass and it would allow them access to any transit within the region.

    Would a state wide transit authority ever happen or would we only see two large RTAs between the OKC region and the Tulsa region? What is the timeline, should things be successful, of including cities to the west and east of this first phase?

  13. #113

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    I usually favor local independence, but a single city messing with bus service that leave RTA passengers stranded somewhere could be enough to really hurt the success of the entire system.

  14. #114

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Quote Originally Posted by PaddyShack View Post
    Would a state wide transit authority ever happen or would we only see two large RTAs between the OKC region and the Tulsa region? What is the timeline, should things be successful, of including cities to the west and east of this first phase?
    Separate metro-area authorities are best. I don't think it's a good idea getting our State government involved in transit decision-making. That would likely be a train wreck...pun intended.

    INCOG and the City of Tulsa have already been discussing and studying an RTA. They're not nearly as far along as OKC. I get the feeling they are watching and learning from our efforts.

    Yukon and Mustang are already being factored into joining the RTA soon after its formation. That will be a decision for those cities to make.

  15. Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Hutch, or others, would you care to speculate as to whether or not the planned commuter rail system might expand to the west if Yukon or Mustang join the RTA? Also, will this RTA be independent of ACOG, insofar as having the ability to accept member cities from outside of the ACOG planning district? For instance, Shawnee is in the Central Oklahoma Economic Development District (COEDD); if they wanted to join the RTA to get access to the commuter rail system, would they be able to do so? Such an extension would also open up access for Nicoma Park, Choctaw, Harrah, and McLoud, if those communities desired it, though the rail linking OKC to Shawnee would need some serious upgrades to allow for commuter service. I'm just kind of thinking out loud here

  16. Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    i dont think the metro cities will be upset with calling the RTD "Oklahoma City Regional Transit District" or the like as long as it says metro area or greater OKC metro area. Those cities are suburbs of OKC and they know their success lies with being tied to and support of OKC. Same here in Seattle where everything says Seattle or Seattle-Tacoma this or that.

    Big difference between Oklahoma City city transit and Oklahoma City Area Regional Transit District.
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

  17. Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    as to the funding, I think a combination of funds should be applied: property tax, gas tax, vehicle registration tax, and sales tax. That way nothing is too over-taxed yet having multiple sources allows the funding to be much more reliable/steady. Each of those sources would be very minor increase over today; where I'd put the most impact to the very low gas tax and probably property tax.
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

  18. #118
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    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    If cities can't get to property tax, seems like it'd be problematic for RTAs as well without a constitutional change?

  19. #119

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Quick answers:

    Commuter rail is a definite possibility to west OKC/Yukon/Mustang...the Union Pacific line goes there...would include a station at the Fairgrounds. Shawnee could be a future extension to the east on UP's line as well. And service to Will Rogers on the Stillwater Central line is very doable.

    The RTA will will be an independent, stand-alone entity outside of ACOG and the individual participating cities...it will be governed by a Board of Directors of persons appointed by the city council's of those cities.

    OKC would be the core metro city for the system...just like Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Denver RTD...it's common to have the name of the RTA/RTD reflect the primary city.

    It would make things much easier if we could use a combination of funding sources...unfortunately the state statute allowing for the creation of regional transit districts only allows for funding by local sales tax...we'd have to go back to the legislature to get that changed...scary.

  20. #120

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    So Greater Oklahoma City Area Rapid Transit is a go then!

  21. Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    yes, but slight modification. Regional vs. Rapid (OKC isn't htere yet for rapid).

    GOCART!
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

  22. #122
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    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    we'll never be able to trademark that

  23. Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    I dunno, there are so many acronyms in government that I'd much rather see a name like Embark be adopted for the public brand name of the RTA.

  24. #124

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Important update.

    The RTA Task Force approved the final draft of the RTA Trust Indenture on September 27th. The agreement now goes to the city councils of OKC, Edmond, Norman, Moore, Midwest City and Del City for consideration. The goal is to have the indenture approved by all participating cities before Thanksgiving.

    Along with commencement of operations of the Streetcar, approval of the RTA Trust Indenture by the participating cities will be a giant leap forward for the future of transit in the OKC metro area.

    I encourage all transit supporters to keep an eye on their city council agendas in the coming weeks and let your council representative know that you support approval of the RTA. If you can make it to the council meeting and offer supportive comments for passage of the agreement, that's even better.

  25. #125

    Default Re: OKC Regional Transit System

    Important Update...Edmond City Council became the first city to approve the RTA trust indenture on Monday evening. Norman City Council votes next.

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