MAPS 4 proposal includes 500 bus shelters, fleet expansion and rapid transit routes

If approved, funding for transit proposed as part of MAPS 4 would include expanding the EMBARK bus fleet to increase frequency and drop overall schedules to less than 30 minutes. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

MAPS 4 proposal includes 500 bus shelters, fleet expansion and rapid transit routes

After years of budget constraints and neglect, Oklahoma City’s public transit system, EMBARK, has undergone a transformation over the past few years that included a restructuring of routes and the introduction of evening and weekend service.

Voters on Dec. 10 will decide whether to expand the operation even more with the inclusion of $87 million as part of the estimated $978 million to be raised from passage of MAPS 4. Like the prior MAPS ballots, the proposal does not raise the city’s sales tax rate and it’s limited to one cent over eight years.

The MAPS 4 funding for transit includes $12 million for additional buses and traffic signalization to give buses priority at about half of the 490 signalized intersections along EMBARK routes. Another $10 million would pay for 500 handicap-accessible bus shelters with security lighting. Half of the system’s 1,400 stops would then have shelters and security lights would be installed at the remaining bus stops.

The largest share of the funding, $60 million, would pay for two bus rapid transit routes to follow up on one recently funded and currently under design.

Jason Ferbrache, director of EMBARK, said the proposed MAPS 4 expansions result from years of planning and rebuilding of the city’s public transit system.

“When we started, our limitations were lack of awareness of transit, our brand and even the services we offered,” Ferbrache said. “With the implementation of our transit system analysis plan and rebranding, we were able to essentially leverage recommendations from that study, technology assessments and our new brand all at once. That was in May 2014.”

In addition to increased frequency, evening and Sunday service, the plan has long envisioned the creation of bus rapid transit (BRT). The city’s first BRT was announced earlier this year with matching federal funding for a route that will connect to downtown and travel along Classen Boulevard and Northwest Expressway into northwest Oklahoma City.

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This conceptual rendering shows how the northwest bus rapid transit stop by Baptist Hospital could include a pedestrian bridge and parking bays at Northwest Expressway and Independence Avenue. [Provided] |

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The bus rapid transit line will use elevated boarding platforms like the downtown streetcar, along with traffic signal prioritization and the potential for dedicated lanes in some areas. MAPS 4 would fund two more BRT routes, one for northeast Oklahoma City and another through south Oklahoma City.

“BRT is a high frequency mode of transit and it mimics a light rail operation from a standpoint of dedicated stop platforms, faster trips for a fixed route bus, usually an upgraded style vehicle,” Ferbrache said. “There will be a lot more technology, real time arrival information and ticketing kiosks at the stop platforms.”

With a large share of EMBARK passengers relying on transit to get to and from work, the northwest BRT plan includes a major stop with a pedestrian bridge over Northwest Expressway next to Integris Baptist Medical Center.

The northeast BRT, meanwhile, would likely connect with the Oklahoma Health Center, home to a workforce of 18,000. It might also connect to Remington Park, the Oklahoma Zoo and Science Museum Oklahoma.

What will you pay?

The Oklahoman’s MAPS 4 cost calculator can help you estimate how much of your sales tax would be allocated to MAPS 4 if the project is approved. Enter in an estimated monthly amount spent on items subject to sales tax — things like groceries, clothes, home supplies, decorations or other tangible products — to see how much MAPS 4 could cost you over the next 8 years.

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