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The modern streetcar not doing it for you? We've got alternative modes of transportation lined up


Luke Atkinson July 1st, 2010

Although there are variables yet to be determined in planning the city's future of transit, the streetcar is one decision already made.It began in June 2004 when Metro Transit launched the Fixed Guide...

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Although there are variables yet to be determined in planning the city's future of transit, the streetcar is one decision already made.

It began in June 2004 when Metro Transit launched the Fixed Guideway Study to examine the city's transportation needs. The study identified major travel corridors in the downtown area and evaluated several different modes of transportation to use. From these findings, the 2030 Fixed Guideway Plan was created.

The plan detailed options like routes and strategies, but no decisions are set in stone yet. Metro Transit public information officer Michael Scroggins said those will be left to the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board.

"(The board is) going to decide what priorities it'll be completed in," he said. "Knowing the exact cost and mileage, we don't really know yet. We're not sure how the committee will choose to do it."

Scroggins said the city's new streetcar system would most likely resemble the city of Portland, Ore. Vicky Diede, Portland's streetcar project manager, said its streetcar cost $3.5 million and could carry 170 passengers. It uses a fixed, electric-rail system and shares traffic with other vehicles.

Oklahoma City streetcar consultant Mike McAnelly said the streetcar was chosen out of the other options because of its modern look and passenger comforts.

"Vintage, replica and modern streetcars as possible options for the downtown circulator were considered in the Fixed Guideway Plan," he said in a Let's Talk Transit question-and-answer forum. "Modern streetcars were recommended because they are more accessible, being low-floor vehicles with wide doors and do not require wheelchair lifts. They are generally quieter, more reliable and include more passenger amenities."

In addition to the streetcar, the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA) is researching a broader scope of alternative transit needs in its Alternative Analysis study. This study, required for potential future federal funding, will look at other technologies and services to further enhance the streetcar over the next 25 years.

The analysis does not cover alternative methods of transportation, like Segway rentals or a bike-share program, but does consider services complementary to the streetcar, Scroggins said. Over the course of time, the city hopes the streetcar will reduce downtown commute times and attract more people to the urban core.

"(The streetcar) is something the city thinks will help the sustainability of our city and boost the economic stability of the city," he said.

Although the streetcar is the selected mode of transportation for Oklahoma City, it's still perfectly acceptable to have other desires. Here are some alternative modes of transit to dream about:

2010 Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
Cost: $350,000
Passengers: two
Energy: gas
(8 miles per gallon city, 13 highway)
Speed: 212 mph

At a blazing 8 mph, the modern streetcar will zip the city's workers and visitors through downtown. When it starts to clock speeds upward of 12 mph, people will start to think the city invested in a rocket car.

Not buying it? Try substituting the streetcar's zero-to-60 in, well, never, for the 2010 model of the Lamborghini Murcielago. This sleek road beast climbs up to speeds of 342 kilometers per hour (that's about 212 mph for non-metric users). Rider will reach their destinations in record-setting time, thanks to its acceleration of zero-to-60 in 3.3 seconds.

There are downsides to using this Italian stallion. The first is its poor gas mileage. The initial track for the streetcar will run between five and six miles long " two miles shorter than the Murcielago can run for each gallon of gas. The car will cost much less than one streetcar, but its fuel consumption may not please the "greenies" or the city's long-term budget.

In addition to guzzling gas, the car's seating is limited. In fact, if there is more than one passenger needing transport, it's going to be downright inefficient. The car seats two people, but one is going to be taken by the lucky person whose job is to transport passengers to their location in an expensive sports car.

While the Lamborghini might be a stretch, Scroggins said it would be quite a sight.
"That would be an interesting take on (transportation)," he said. "We know they've voted on a modern streetcar, but that'd make for great photos for Lamborghinis to line up (in the street)."   

2010 Smart Car
Cost: starting at $11,990
Passengers: two to four
Energy: gas, electric or hybrid
Speed: up to 95 mph
Range: 150 miles per charge

If the color green is a concern, the Daimler Smart Car can save it in two ways: It is more environmentally responsible and costs less than the Lamborghini.

After being all the rage in Europe for nearly 10 years, the Smart Car made its way to the U.S.  Although it may not have the "cute" of the Volkswagen Beetle, it's been rated one of the most fuel-efficient cars in the U.S. by the EPA.

The European Smart ForFour can carry a few more passengers, solving the problem of limited ridership the Murcielago had, but would still require a legion to accommodate the needs of downtown transit. If the city purchased 100 Smart Cars to conquer downtown, only $1.19 million of the $130 million streetcar fund would be used. One-hundred riders could be transported without the restriction of the track compared to the 170 planned route riders.
Smart Car: 1, Streetcar: 0.

Trek Madone 6
Cost: $9,000
Passengers: one
Energy: manpower
Speed: 12 to 15 mph (average person), 30-plus mph (Lance Armstrong)

Never mind the fancy streetcar and forget the cars: Bicycling could become Oklahoma City's alternative transportation gimmick " just like Tulsa.

For a small fraction of the price of a streetcar, residents can use bikes to get around downtown at their own leisure. For $9,000 per bicycle, the city can offer the same bikes used by American riders at the Tour de France. If this seems too pricey, Trek offers its version of the 1950s-style cruiser for about $300.

The average person can pedal along at a brisk 12 to 15 mph (still faster than the streetcar) and navigate downtown without being restricted by the predetermined route of streetcar rails.
Not only can these bikes tackle the problem of improving air quality by limiting emissions; they can also reduce the city's infamously large waistline. According to Forbes.com, Oklahoma City is the least fit city, based on lifestyles and diets.

Surrey
Cost: $4,000
Passengers: four to six
Energy: horsepower, manpower or electric
Speed: 8 to 12 mph

According to the musical "Oklahoma!," surreys are exceptional modes of transportation.

Like bicycles, surreys can provide the city some pedal power and alternative transit at a much lower cost. Instead of putting one person on a bike, why not get six people and create a "bikepooling" opportunity?

The surrey could navigate through downtown. Give it a designated driver, and then it resembles the rickshaws that roam around after events around Bricktown. As long there aren't any large, steep hills planned in MAPS 3, the surrey could become a viable choice.

The fringe on top is optional, but encouraged. "Photo/Shannon Cornman

Segway
Cost: $5,699
Passengers: one
Energy: electric
Speed: 8 to 12 mph
Range: 24 miles per recharge

Imagine numerous stations strategically located across downtown that held a stable of Segways. At these stations, people could rent a Segway for a designated amount of time and ride it through downtown for a fee.

If it were based upon a bike-share program, it wouldn't seem so crazy. The Segway's electric motor can push passengers along at 8-to-12 mph and can cover a range of 24 miles before it needs recharging. And at just less than $6,000, buying 170 units would be cheaper than the streetcar.

The Segway doesn't offer the same healthy benefits as a bicycle and doesn't carry the same coolness factor as the surrey, but it's just as environmentally friendly and affordable as some other options.

And, according to the users of YouTube, it's also capable of providing medieval-fun in a 12-mph joust. "Luke Atkinson | photo/Mark Hancock
 
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