Expanded Transit Possible in Tulsa

Jan 10, 2013

Dallas has the Spur, and San Antonio’s Primo just started service last month.

The current plan involves adding a Bus Rapid Transit service to the existing 105 route.
Credit Courtesy INCOG

In Tulsa, a plan to bring Bus Rapid Transit service to Peoria Avenue takes shape.

Transportation Projects Coordinator with INCOG. At the final public meeting to seek input about INCOG’s current preferred plan, INCOG Transportation Projects Coordinator James Wagner explains, “Basically what we’re looking at is a Bus Rapid Transit system that would increase the frequency from 30 minutes to every 15 minutes.”

“It would do that by using stations,” he said, “36 stations at 19 locations, throughout the Peoria corridor that would connect from 38th Street North down to 81st and Lewis.”

The current bus route along Peoria is the 105. It runs from 66th street north down to 81st and Lewis, and under INCOG’s plan, it would remain functioning as is.

The new line would be in addition to the 105.

“What it effectively does,” Wagner said, “is it doubles the frequency of the transit service, and it provides people with an option to use a branded transit service that has nicer bus shelters and more amenities.”

Amenities like real-time bus arrival information, either through a smart phone app or a display on the bus shelter. Or ticket vending machines, so you can pay your fare before you board.  

The idea, Wagner says, is for the bus line to function as closely as possible like a light rail service—fewer stops, farther apart, but much more frequent service, and better reliability.

Many residents who showed up to the meeting earlier this week were enthusiastic. Jannette Hammack says she’d use a service like this all the time.

“I work at Third and Peoria, and I live at about 46th and Peoria,” she said, “so if this was implemented, I would be able to let go of having to drive my car.”

“You shouldn’t have to rely on a car when you live in a city, is my basic philosophy,” said another resident, Alani Taylor.

Taylor says she’s tried to use the bus system before, when a medical issue meant she couldn’t use her car for at least six months.

“It really just ended up being so inconvenient that I ended up finding someone else in my building that I could carpool with,” she said, “because I didn’t have the option of staying late at work, I didn’t have the option of coming in earlier or later if I wanted to.”

“The timing of the schedule was just so restrictive,” she said.

The public meeting about the bus rapid transit service was early this week, just one day after the high-profile murder of four women in an apartment complex at 61st and Peoria.

So it’s perhaps understandable that one of the concerns raised at the meeting was whether added bus stops with higher volume might bring with it an elevated crime rate.

But Carol Bush with the Crime Prevention Network, formerly the Tulsa Crime Commission, says that’s an unrealistic concern.

“I don’t’ think typically bad guys use the bus to do their bad work,” Bush said.

She says Tulsa’s effective non-police crime-prevention efforts could be expanded specifically to include bus stops.

“Maybe the Alert Neighbors,” she said, “when they’re patrolling not only their neighborhoods and looking for suspicious activity, they include patrolling the bus stops and watching out for them.”

Wagner says the plans included added lighting and security cameras. He says Dallas is a good example of added access to transit creating economic development.

“Transportation is really a tool of increasing property value,” he said. “The more access a piece of property has to it, if it’s a commercial property, the more valuable it is.”

One potential drawback to the plan is a lack of available federal grant money.

The Peoria route is Tulsa’s busiest, but it still doesn’t have enough riders to be eligible for the Very Small Starts grant program from the Federal Transit Administration.

Wagner says that the plan is to use local funding to implement the current proposals. As ridership grows, Tulsa would later become eligible for federal funds for further improvements to its public transit system.