Saturday, December 12, 2020

State’s first public transit plan delivered to Legislature; goal is mobility for all Oklahomans

Pictured, from left, are Sen. Michael Bergstrom, Rep. Avery Frix, OTA Chief Executive Officer Mark Nestlen, Rep. Carol Bush and Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz.

State’s first public transit plan delivered to Legislature; goal is mobility for all Oklahomans  

The wheels are in motion on improved public transit in Oklahoma after more than one year of coordination by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Transit Association, along with transit agencies statewide to develop the state’s first transit plan. During a special ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 10, the completed Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan was delivered by ODOT and OTA to legislative leaders from the Oklahoma Senate and the Oklahoma House of Representatives on the steps of the state Capitol.

The comprehensive, statewide plan outlines the goals, strategies, objectives and priorities to make Oklahoma a Top Ten state for public transit by 2040. Highlights include identification of the existing gap in funding for transit based on current and future projected needs, a strategic investment schedule outlining the best use of funds for the next 20 years and an in-depth examination of transit funding options used by peer states.

“Completion of the state’s first transit plan is a milestone achievement in moving Oklahoma toward becoming a Top Ten State for all modes of transportation,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said. “Thanks to the input from transit providers and users, we now have a roadmap for modernizing transit services and ensuring mobility for all Oklahomans.”

“While ODOT has incorporated public transit in long-range planning efforts before, I’ve never seen it done to this level in my thirty years with the state,” Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz said. “I’m grateful for the leadership of President Pro Tem Treat and Speaker McCall as well as the Senate and House transportation committees throughout this process of bringing everyone to the table and developing this plan.”

“Passage of HB 1365 set forth an opportunity to modernize a more efficient and effective public transit system in Oklahoma that will operate seamlessly statewide within and between rural communities and urban cities,” said OTA Chief Executive Officer Mark Nestlen. "Oklahoma’s transit system is currently near the bottom, but full implementation of this first ever statewide transit plan will elevate Oklahoma to a Top Ten state in public transit and ensure the mobility needs of all Oklahomans are met in a safe, economical and coordinated manner."

The plan focuses on currently available transit services: public bus, van and streetcar. Goals over the next 20 years are meeting critical needs by 2025, expanding service by 2030, meeting the benchmark by 2035 and reaching mobility for all by 2040.

Creation of the Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan by ODOT and OTA was a key piece of House Bill 1365, which was enacted in 2019 to modernize public transportation by creating the Office of Mobility and Public Transit at ODOT and reforming administration of state and federal funding for transit programs by ODOT.

The transit plan was developed through stakeholder and public input from the transit industry and users. This included numerous meetings with a steering committee of transit leaders, site visits and interviews with transit operators and participation by partner agencies, government officials and advocates. The department also hosted several regional public meetings and administered an online public survey that received more than 2,000 responses. 

The Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan can be viewed at www.oktransitplan.org.

What legislative leaders are saying about the Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan:

“Public transit and mobility are very important not only to our metro areas, but also rural communities and tribal nations in Oklahoma,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said. “Just like we’ve made major progress on our highway system thanks to long-range planning and goal-setting, this first transit plan sets the stage for improved public transportation that will benefit our economy and the health and quality-of-life of Oklahomans statewide.”  

“The transit plan gives us the ability to address long-term needs and solutions in a comprehensive way,” Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman said. “This collaboration will help us ensure we are identifying and maximizing resources and developing goals that will help us address critical transportation needs in both rural and urban Oklahoma for decades to come.” Standridge is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and sponsored House Bill 1365 in the Senate.  

“It’s important that all Oklahomans have the benefits of the mobility public transit provides,” said State Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, the principal author of HB 1365. “This not only gives people access to employment, healthcare and services but it improves our local and state economies.”

“This legislation helped us modernize our public transit policy as well as ensure better coordination between state agencies so that transportation dollars could be delivered more efficiently where they are needed,” Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, said. Frix chairs the House Transportation Committee and was a co-author of the bill.

0 comments: