Tulsa-area residents can get their first look at what the future might hold for them transportation-wise later this month at an open house devoted to unveiling a draft version of a new regional transit plan.
The event will be held at 6pm on Thursday, July 21 at the Central Center at Centennial Park, 1028 E. 6th St. Presentations of the Fast Forward draft plan, which is being compiled under the auspices of the Indian Nations Council of Governments, will be delivered at 6:15pm and 7:15pm, and those in attendance are encouraged to submit comments and ask questions.
Officials at INCOG and the Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. have been working on the study for several months, soliciting public input on what kind of transportation options metro-area residents want to see in the future. The Fast Forward project is designed to serve as a transportation plan for the entire region for the next 30 years, identifying and prioritizing its highest-traffic areas. Those putting the study together also will compile a detailed analysis of alternative transportation modes for specific corridors.
James Wagner, INCOG's transportation project coordinator, declined to go into the specifics of the draft plan, but he said it would be consistent with what citizens expressed over the past several months in a series of public outreach events that took place from late January through the end of March at locations throughout Tulsa, Sand Springs, Owasso, Broken Arrow, Bixby and Jenks. Wagner has said more than 2,000 citizens weighed in during that process, and that their input figures prominently in the draft plan.
"People said they wanted to see more frequency and easier transfers between buses," he said, expressing one of the more common themes.
Wagner said the study recommends the creation of a three-tier transit network, with the tiers overlapping. That would be the structure of a transit network that will be built over the next three decades, he said, a system that in many ways is consistent with the desires that citizens expressed during the PLANiTULSA process that resulted in an update of the city's comprehensive plan.
The draft plan is also based in part on the results of a scientific telephone survey conducted with 1,000 area residents in October and November 2010 and lengthy interviews conducted with 111 regional stakeholders during the same period.
Significant findings include the fact that 90 percent of those surveyed on the phone indicated they agreed with the statement, "I don't use public transportation, but I support it because it helps others who don't have cars or can't drive"; that 64 percent of respondents indicated they drive because they have to, not because they want to; that only 13 percent believe we should not invest in a new public transportation system because no one uses it; and that 85 percent of respondents believe it is very important or somewhat important for elected leaders in the region to encourage the development of alternatives to the car.
Only 36 percent of respondents had used mass transit in Tulsa, but 72 percent had used it elsewhere. When asked what would help them use transit more often, 52 percent of respondents said streetcars or rail transit service instead of buses, while another 52 percent said more frequent service. Extended service hours ranked third at 51 percent, while more express buses was fourth at 50 percent.
The summary of the in-depth interviews with regional stakeholders is consistent with the polling data. The summary also indicated there are concerns among stakeholders about how to fund transit improvements and that there is no real sense of what is possible.
Members of the public will be able to examine the draft plan and provide input through Aug. 22, Wagner said. A link to a feedback form will be posted on the Fast Forward website at fastforwardplan.org, while email and traditional mail comments also will be accepted.
Even as the public is mulling over the plan, INCOG officials will present the plan to officials of each participating local government for their input. At the end of that process, final tweaks to the plan will be made, and it will be presented to the INCOG board for approval, Wagner said. He expects that to take place in September or October.
Because the plan is regional in nature, it does not require the approval of any of the city councils involved or the Tulsa County Commission, Wagner said, though some municipalities may choose to formally adopt it as part of their comprehensive plan, he said.
He said INCOG went through a similar process a few years ago when it created and adopted a regional trails master plan.
Once the plan has been approved by the INCOG board, implementation of its recommendations can begin. Wagner acknowledged it's unclear exactly how that will play out.
"It's a regional plan, and we don't have a regional transit authority," he said. "So that's the tricky part. It can be implemented on a contract basis, where, for instance, Bixby, which doesn't have transit service, could contract with the city of Tulsa to provide it."
Wagner said that discussion of the best way to implement the plan most likely would take place during the public comment period. He just hopes the momentum generated by the plan's creation and release can be maintained.
"There are probably some things that need to be looked at as far as creating a regional structure to make that happen," he said. "But our hope is that we continue to move forward and implement the plan by a contract basis."
Share this article: