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Street smarts


City officials educate the public on plans and next steps for the MAPS 3 streetcar.

Tim Farley May 14th, 2013

Almost everything Oklahoma City residents wanted to know about streetcars but were afraid to ask was covered during a May 9 public forum at the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library.

Skyline Ink

Organized as a way to inform, educate and clear up misconceptions about the MAPS 3-funded project, city officials and their paid consultants delivered a bevy of facts and figures that centered on previous studies, future construction and success stories from other cities.

Mike McAnelly, senior planner and project manager for Jacobs Engineering Group, said cities that have integrated streetcars into their mass-transit plans have witnessed increased ridership each year, at an average hike of about 12 percent.

“Every emerging community in the country is investing in the future of their city, and part of that is having a good public transportation system,” he said.

McAnelly pointed to Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Tacoma, Wash., as prime examples of cities in which streetcars have been well-received. Portland began its system more than a decade ago with an initial route of 3.9 miles, while Seattle started with 2.6 miles. In both cases, the streetcar line was planned in conjunction with major attractions.

OKC’s route is under review by consultants; a recommendation is expected next month.

Officials familiar with the project said the route likely will be 5 to 6 miles and include most of the downtown attractions, including the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the yetto-be built convention center and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The streetcars are expected to begin operating in 2017.

“The idea of streetcars supports the walkable, mixed-use area of downtown Oklahoma City,” McAnelly said.

Typically, modern streetcars are powered by electricity and move along at 8 to 12 mph in a normal lane of traffic with stops spaced every two to three blocks.

They can operate in center-turning or outside lanes and will have traffic-signal priority at intersections when the vehicle — with a radius similar to a bus or truck — is turning.

The modern streetcar has a host of amenities, including off- and on-board fare collection, multiple wide doors, internal bike racks and level floor boarding. The streetcars are 66 to 99 feet in length with three sections and can seat 30 or more passengers, with standing room for an additional 100.

“People on streetcars are there for shorter trips, and they don’t mind standing,” McAnelly said. “They are designed for the urban environment. The streetcar will decrease the need for lot-to-lot travel and provide a pedestrian-friendly alternative to driving.”

After finalizing the route, consultants will offer preliminary and final designs, procure the streetcars and rails and then begin construction.

Work crews will be forced to relocate or adjust utilities and install the tracks in 600-foot sections, which should take about three weeks per segment, McAnelly said.

A project timeline shows construction is slated to begin mid-2014 and conclude at the end of 2016.


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