Flush with the success of the original Metropolitan Area Projects and MAPS for Kids, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett put up a Web site to serve as the city's wish list for a potential MAPS 3, to begin as soon as the one-cent sales tax for MAPS for Kids expired, which would have been the last day of 2008.

Things have been put off a bit, and by "a bit" I mean fifteen months: city voters approved a one-cent sales tax to refurbish the Ford Center for new duty as home to The Basketball Team Formerly Known As The Seattle SuperSonics, which will follow immediately upon the MAPS for Kids tax expiration and continue into the spring of 2010. There was some grumbling — "Refurbish? Hell, it's only just been furbished!" — but it proved to be a distinctly minority viewpoint, at least as far as the balloting was concerned.

Still, the city is likely to push for MAPS 3, whatever it will be, during 2009. And if Mayor Cornett takes the results of the Web site survey at all seriously, the top item on the list will be some form of transit: nearly a quarter of the respondents requested exactly that, far more than any other single item. You might think that the current bus-based transit system might be inadequate, and indeed it is, not so much because it's bus-based, but because its schedule and routes are surprisingly limited, given the fact that it's supposed to be serving a metropolitan area the size of Connecticut.

So far, they haven't been able to lure me onto the system, despite the fact that I live one block from a bus stop and work less than one block from another: I may not have to walk much, but that one trip requires two transfers and, were the schedules synchronized perfectly for my needs, would take an hour and a half at best. If I wanted a three-hour commute I'd move to southern California, fercryingoutloud. And I honestly don't think that any rail system we could actually afford to build is going to make traipsing across town any easier for me; as it stands, I can drive it in 18-20 minutes each way, at the cost of half a gallon of precious fuelstuffs plus the usual wear and tear on my motor vehicle.

Even if I lived and worked right in the middle of town, though, I'd probably have issues. Consider these findings from the Urban Neighbors group, which represents downtowners, regarding the sort-of-trolley system they endure:

  1. Poorly understood by the general public
  2. Faces low ridership on key routes
  3. Timings and actual arrivals at stops are inconsistent
  4. Stops are poorly identified
  5. Stops feature limited information (route maps, schedule times and actual arrivals)
  6. Hours of service are limited and poorly advertised
  7. Onboard stop information is inconsistent or not available
  8. Existing system is not configured for 2008 and future ridership demographics in 2008 and the future

This is not to say that I'll vote down a MAPS 3 package that contains some sort of rail-based transit. Indeed, I still believe that one should not have to own a motor vehicle to survive in the city — although it makes life much easier, assuming you can afford the not-inconsiderable expense. But I am not hopeful that we're going to create a public-transportation nirvana in Oklahoma City, unless we can figure out some way to keep the turbo-doofus types who run our current system from ruining our future system.

The Vent

  17 August 2008

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 Copyright © 2008 by Charles G. Hill