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OKC streetcar delivers success
After more than a decade of discussion, planning, design and construction, the Oklahoma City Streetcar began service Friday morning with a huge celebration. Confetti rained down and a large crowd cheered as Mayor David Holt, City Council members, MAPS 3 staff, advisory board and streetcar subcommittee members and many other people instrumental in this milestone celebrated the streetcar system’s inaugural ride.
The timing of the launch was right in many ways. Oklahoma City is ready for more public transportation options, both to alleviate traffic congestion and parking demand and to satisfy an increased demand for public transit. There is an increasing desire for walkability in downtown and among the city’s districts. Coincidentally, the ribbon-cutting took place on the 25th anniversary of the day of the vote on the original MAPS program – a reminder of how far our city has come and our success in making historic and visionary changes.
The inaugural weekend of the OKC Streetcar highlighted many of the benefits the service brings our city:
• New dollars – Thousands of people rode the streetcar on its inaugural weekend. It was exciting to hear comments from people who said they don’t typically visit downtown or had no idea there were so many restaurants and businesses in Midtown or along Automobile Alley.
• Easier navigation downtown – There were many comments about how easy it was to push a stroller or wheelchair onto the cars or bring your bike. On Saturday, Thunder fans enjoyed eating out in restaurants along the route and then riding to the Thunder game. Instead of driving around trying to find parking, fans were able to exit the streetcar at the door of the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
• Encouraging community – Throughout the weekend, strangers were helping each other navigate the system and learn how it works. Welcome to Oklahoma City – that’s our personality. Retailers and restaurants along the route were eagerly promoting a streetcar community in support of the service and each other.
• Encouraging walkability – People didn’t rely on their cars to get between places. They would hop on the streetcar, getting off and on at various locations and walking to their activities.
The economic and community impacts of this important investment in our city are already being felt. Congratulations, Oklahoma City, on another transformative MAPS project.
Cathy O’Connor is the president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.