OKC Streetcar: A car that…drives on streets

Let me first begin by saying I grew up playing SimCity 2000.

I was able to achieve first hand experience as an urban planner of a city that was usually riddled with abandoned buildings,traffic problems, and the occasional tornado. Sound familiar?

But the thing I failed at most was public transportation and getting my Sims to actually use it.

The streetcar meeting held by MAPS3 at the downtown library this past Monday went terribly. So bad that I doubt we’ll ever see the recording of it on the city’s UStream page(UPDATE: The video featured is the meeting, cut right before a woman complains about how terribly it’s going. Props to Zach Nash) We the public thought we were getting a public forum to discuss the rail system that begins construction next year. Instead we had an awkward presentation on the proposed routes and how great rail is with an even worse Q&A.

And if you’re going to have a public meeting where you advertise that we get to voice our opinions, then maybe you should have those in charge at least attend and not just answering via phone line. Even worse, the only two applauses the whole night were after someone brought up how we should be funding buses not rail and after someone piped up how terrible the Q&A was going.

There has to be a better way of approaching the planning and implementation.

Portland’s streetcar system is referred to multiple times in the plan and presentation. Yet they have spent millions more, and the routes go through not only residential but a nearby medical campus, two things that the proposed routes in OKC say will happen “in the future”. However, the city’s rail is not without its flaws. A majority of residents in Portland actually voted against a streetcar on multiple occasions and are still trying to find ways to stop the needless spending when most people would rather just walk or bike.

Also, the guys over at Oregon Live walked the same distance actually beating their streetcar on a certain route. Granted the top speed of a streetcar is about 10-15 mph with walking being 3 mph and as they said, it beats having to walk in the rain. But what happens if there’s heavy traffic or an obstruction?

I also thought the government was trying to encourage Oklahomans to walk more? Oklahoma’s obesity rate sits at 31.1% as of last year making us the sixth fattest state in the nation.

“One of the factors that likely contributes to obesity in cities like Tulsa is a lack of sidewalks, buses and bike lanes that can incorporate physical activity into a person’s routine…”

And streetcar tracks are not bike friendly. They are usually the perfect size for a bike wheel to fit into, causing you to fly off onto the street. Sure you can carry your bike onto the train, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose in this area? I want to see the streets filled with more bikes, not trains full of bikes.

Oh, and can we please clear up what is Midtown versus Automobile Alley?

zeta-route-okc-streetcar

The maps provided by MAPS have everything labeled in Midtown either Auto Alley, St Anthony’s or just…nothing. Yet the speakers referred to Midtown multiple times and how beneficial it will be to have this route run through Robinson, 13th and Broadway. If you’re going to be using the residents and businesses of Midtown to promote the streetcar, why not at the very least put it on your map.

Why has no one outright said what the main purpose of this streetcar really is: tourism.

This route and the other three routes proposed do not benefit current residents in the area as these are easily walkable routes. They will serve future tourism and business visitors that may not have a car to get to the future convention center.

And you know what, that’s fine! I’m actually okay with that. But how about instead of saying “In the possible future, routes can be added to residences after 2021 with more funding…” to “This is not for current residents, this is for tourists coming into the area.”

I’ve come to a point where I’ve accepted the streetcar. It’s going to happen whether we want it or not. A majority voted for it back in 2009, so now we’re getting it.

I honestly want the streetcar to succeed. I want it to be a public transit system that everyone enjoys. I also know how hard it is to get anything passed in the state with public funding. But don’t make a mockery of trying to invite us to participate by having one question answered each via telephone.

MAPS, you’ve already earned our trust. Just please don’t ruin it by spending all your money in one place. Remember, not all progress is good progress. Even if  we told you to build it.

Maybe you shouldn’t listen to the majority of voters all the time. Especially when we only have experience in SimCity 2000.

 

Please read The Gazette’s article on the proposed routes and check out Oklahoma City’s MAPS page to learn about MAPS3 and the progress in our beloved city.

  2 comments for “OKC Streetcar: A car that…drives on streets

  1. July 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Driverless cars are coming, think about not having the need to have your own car, but transportation shared, when you need it. Currently almost everyone owns their own car, driving by ourselves (90%) and not utilizing it at all 95% of the time. Think of the future – fewer vehicles used more, it is coming. Should we consider this? Personally I wish we had the ability for more trusted hitch hiking, I would pick up any facebook friend or friend of friend, if a few thousand people in every city felt the same way, we could all get around better.

  2. Zach Nash
    July 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Here is the video from the July 15 MAPS 3 Modern Streetcar public meeting.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRJFFe7R2GU

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