EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories on regional transit issues.
Metro drivers at rush hour experience traffic congestion when time is money, and rail transit gives other cities a competitive edge.
Such was the message of the Regional Transit Dialogue Steering Committee (RTD) when it met this week in downtown Oklahoma City.
“The decisions that we make are going to be very important and effect people for a long time to come,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
Three rail corridors are suggested in the study including a link to the $120 million modern street car system being constructed with an intermodal hub in downtown Oklahoma City. RTD calls for the hub to link Edmond, Norman, Midwest City and Tinker Air Force Base, said Hollie Massey, special programs officer with the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. Stakeholder meetings and meetings for the public will be scheduled to address each corridor separately.
Oklahoma City ranked last among the 50th largest metro areas as best prepared for $4 gasoline, according to a 2008 study by Common Current. Oklahoma City ranked 84th out of 100 metro areas in serving the transit needs of its workforce, the Brookings Institute reported in 2011.
“Economic success in the 21st century means making a region attractive for an educated workforce,” said Marion Hutchison, an appointed citizen member of the RTD II Steering Committee. He is also chairman of OnTrac, a not-for-profit rail transit public interest organization, which is the reason for his appointment to the steering committee.
Rail transit is about economic development. Rail transit raises property values and tax revenue, supports retail districts and accelerates urban renewal, Hutchison said. It is a competitive tool already completed or in stages of development by many of the metro’s peer cities surrounding the state.
“Even though we hear rail transit needs to be subsidized, you’re counting your fares versus what it costs to operate the thing,” Hutchison said. “No one ever takes into account the tremendous local and state tax revenues that result from these systems.”
Energy efficient rail transit improves the quality of life with cleaner air, he said. People enjoy urban life without being so dependent on an automobile, Hutchison said.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has generated an additional $128 million for the City of Dallas in annual tax revenues and $4.5 billion in property value increases, he said.
The RTD steering committee oversees the $1.25 million “Commuter Rail Corridor Analysis” being conducted by URS Corporation for ACOG. RTD is specifically looking at commuter rail as the most likely option for the metro and not light rail, Hutchison said.
DART is an example of light rail, which differs from commuter rail. Light rail runs on dedicated electric tracks on a special right-of-way, Hutchison said. Powered by diesel and electricity, the Heartland Flyer is an example of commuter rail running on existing freight tracks.
Light rail is more expensive to construct than commuter rail at a cost of $60 million to $80 million per track mile. Commuter rail costs $8 million to $10 million per mile, Hutchison said. This all-encompassing cost includes maintenance, acquiring right-of-way, laying down the track and operating the system.
“To build a light rail system between Edmond, Oklahoma City and Norman would cost $2 billion to $3 billion, whereas a commuter rail system would cost only $200-300 million,” Hutchison told The Edmond Sun.
Salt Lake City’s FrontRunner commuter rail system directly services Hill Air Force Base in Ogden. Hill is one of Tinker’s direct competitors. RTD is using the successful FrontRunner system as an example of the type of system RTD considers best for the metro.
“We’ve heard a lot about Tinker wanting to have a rail transit mode,” Hutchison said. “I just think that’s an important thing to know as we go forward in the discussion.”
The City of Denver estimates its redevelopment with transit rail will create 10,000 new jobs in its metro, Hutchison said.
“It’s going to cause many businesses to move to Denver because companies know their employees don’t like to sit in traffic,” he added.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories on regional transit issues.
- Local News
North baseballers aid kindergartners
North High School sophomore baseball player Tyler Bowen helps Ida Freeman kindergartners Dakota Prince and Jorge Campuzano pick out a book. Each student received a book, a Christmas cookie and juice and then the baseball team members read to the students.
Rollover crash closes part of north Edmond street
A section of a street in northwest Edmond was closed Thursday afternoon while personnel worked the site of a rollover crash.
The crash occurred along a partly snow-covered stretch of Sorghum Mill Road just west of the Santa Fe-Sorghum Mill intersection. Police, EMSA and fire rescue personnel were working the scene. Both lanes of Sorghum Mill were closed at the time.
Information on injuries or the cause were not immediately available.
Feds indict 3 accused in tag agency thefts
Suspects accused of burglarizing several metro tag agencies including one in Edmond now face federal charges, court records show.
Wednesday, the U.S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, released the complaint filed against William Robert Donovan, 40, of Edmond, Richard Bruce Traver, 27, listed as homeless, and Amanda D. Sizemore. Her address information was not available.
Donovan and Traver, who are both in custody at the Oklahoma County jail, and Sizemore, who is not yet in custody, face government allegations of conspiracy to commit offenses against the U.S., aiding and abetting bank fraud and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft.
If convicted, each defendant faces significant prison time, fines or both.
Defense counsel information was not listed. An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the complaint, grand jurors allege that earlier this year, beginning in or before March and continuing through at least June the defendants conspired to commit bank fraud in violation of federal law.
OC will award degrees at winter commencement
Oklahoma Christian University will present 87 undergraduate degrees and 85 graduate degrees at its winter commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday.
The undergraduate degree candidates come from 16 states and seven countries and majored in a combined 36 academic disciplines at Oklahoma Christian. The master’s degree candidates come from six states and 10 countries, and represent 14 graduate areas of study.
Jim Baird, director of OC’s Honors Program, will deliver the undergraduate commencement address on Friday. Byron Newberry, chair of Oklahoma Christian’s Graduate School of Engineering, will keynote Saturday’s graduate ceremony.
In addition to his director’s role with the Honors Program, Baird is a professor of Bible and philosophy at Oklahoma Christian. He also has served as the preaching minister at Wilshire Church of Christ since 2000. His father, James O. Baird, was Oklahoma Christian’s second president.
Touchmark residents give ‘thumbs up’ to new YMCA
Senior citizens from Touchmark bundled up, braved the cold and the icy roads this week and traveled to the Edmond YMCA Recreation & Aquatic Center at Mitch Park on Covell.
The tour group was one of more than 100 that have been guided through the new facility to show what will be available when it is finished. This $22.5 million facility is a joint project with the the Edmond School District, the City of Edmond and the YMCA.
Joining the group and donning hard hats were Touchmark residents Ellie Lottinville, Judith Harris, Jimmie Cook, John Wayant and Richard Newville along with Carla Scull, Touchmark’s director of life enrichment, and Jesse Walls, driver.
Guthrie-Edmond airport looks to upgrade
The Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport board was told Tuesday by officials from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission that GERA is in good shape but work needs to continue to help maximize everything the airport has to offer.
The board was given a presentation by OAC director Vic Bird and Dale Williams, OAC planning division manager about the state of the aviation industry in Oklahoma and how airports the size of GERA are faring.
AAA: Teens report ‘TWD’ significantly less than adults
High school-aged teens report using their phones or texting while driving substantially less often than adults do, according to new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
While the public often cites teens as being the most common offenders, a recent survey found that adult drivers ages 25-39 were the most likely to admit engaging in these risky behaviors behind the wheel.
Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, said young novice drivers, who are especially susceptible to distracted driving crashes, are using their phones while driving less than older drivers.
AAA to offer free Tipsy Tow rides
Before climbing behind the wheel after drinking at a holiday party, AAA Oklahoma hopes you’ll think again and call them for a free Tipsy Tow ride home for you, your vehicle and one more person.
“Over Christmas and New Year’s, up to 40 percent of all traffic crashes involve alcohol,” said Edmond resident Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “But motorists do have options: Use a designated driver, serve non-alcoholic mocktails at parties or call AAA for a Tipsy Tow.”
Paycom plans HoliDazzle event to benefit Warmth 4 Winter Coat Drive
Paycom has teamed with News Channel 4, The Salvation Army and Rotary Club of South Oklahoma City to host HoliDazzle, a free event at Remington Park on Thursday to kick-off the annual Warmth 4 Winter coat drive.
Parents and children are encouraged to bring a new or gently used coat from 3:30-7:30 p.m. to help ensure that every child and adult stays warm during Oklahoma’s harsh winter months. Those who contribute are encouraged to enjoy an afternoon of holiday fun with train rides, pictures with Santa, hot cocoa and cookies.
Lilyfield reschedules ‘Dunks for Diapers’
Lilyfield Christian Adoption and Foster Care has rescheduled its Dunks for Diapers event.
Lilyfield holds a diaper drive with the Oklahoma Christian University Women’s basketball team to benefit foster children. Anyone bringing diapers, wipes or new baby items for ages 0-24 months will gain free admission to the women’s game versus Lubbock Christian University, which will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Eagles’ Nest on the campus of Oklahoma Christian in Edmond.
“This will allow us to give foster families much-needed necessities when they receive placement of a foster child. Often placements happen with little notice and the child may come into a foster home with nothing but the clothes they are wearing,” said Holly Towers, executive director of Lilyfield Christian Adoption and Foster Care.
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- North baseballers aid kindergartners