The Edmond Sun


September 30, 2013

AGAINST THE GRAIN: Street cars in Oklahoma City's future

OKLA. CITY — The Moscow mass transit system is somewhat unique in that it follows a circular path through the Russian capital. And there is a story told of why it follows such a pattern. The system was built in the 1930s and was designed to be a symbol of the Soviet Union’s productivity and ability to provide transportation to the citizens and workers of Moscow.

The plans for it had to be approved personally by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and as a result, the blueprints prepared by the engineers who designed it featured straight lines that intersected the major thoroughfares of Moscow.

When the plan landed on Stalin’s desk in the Kremlin, he placed his teacup on it which left a brown circular imprint before he approved it by placing his initials on it. When the document was returned to the engineers, they concluded that Stalin wanted the system built on a circular system and hurriedly altered their plans accordingly.  

Needless to say, the streetcar system that was approved last week by the Oklahoma City Council was the result of a much greater degree of deliberation. The council authorized a route that was prepared by a transportation consultant that will take six street cars from the Downtown Transit Center on a 4.5 mile route that will include stops in Bricktown, the MidCity area Automobile Alley and the Santa Fe Station. A streetcar system for downtown Oklahoma City was included in the MAPS 3 Project that was approved by the voters of Oklahoma City several years ago.

A percentage of the sales tax that was levied in accordance with MAPS 3 was dedicated to funding the undertaking. A subcommittee of the Oklahoma City Council and a Citizens Advisory Committee recommended that the Council approve the plan.

The streetcars are supposed to be in operation by 2017, and an animation of the route it will follow is on the City of Oklahoma City’s website. The site includes several areas that are labeled as “possible future extension” that would extend the route further from the downtown area. And the significance of the streetcar system for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area may be that it will prompt suburban communities such as Edmond, Norman and Midwest City to fund a regional mass transit system that will connect to it.

And, in the event that the system does reach Midwest City and Tinker Air Force Base, that is located in that community, will be able to keep the majority of its civilian employees coming to work even if our national fuel supply is disrupted due to events in the volatile Middle East.  

That ability may insure that Tinker remains in operation when decisions are made in the future as to what military bases should remain in operation and which one should close. And the streetcar system will transform the civic culture in a variety of ways. The travel section of the Sunday New York Times recently reported on the “trolley dances” that are held on stops on some of the streetcar stops in the California communities of San Diego, Riverside, and Los Angeles. The article detailed how the dances came into being 15 years ago after a dance troupe in San Diego was unable to afford to rent a theater and decided to perform where people gathered to board and exit the streetcars. The success of that undertaking prompted dance troupes in Los Angeles and Riverside to start similar programs. Those dances have now become tourist attractions that bring people to those communities. And it is possible that at some future date cultural events will be held at stops on Oklahoma City’s streetcar line.

William F. O’Brien is an Oklahoma City attorney.

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  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

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    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

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    July 22, 2014


The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
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