With looming budget cuts for the city's public transportation and parking department and the proposed elimination of the Metro Link service, many citizens took to the Oklahoma City Council meeting June 8 to protest the pending changes to the city's public transportation service.
And it appears their voices were heard as evidenced by the City Council's vote on June 15.
Rick Cain, administrator with the Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority, which operates Metro Transit, presented his department's proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year to the council on June 8. To handle the budget cuts, Cain offered a plan that included an increase in bus fare from $1.25 to $1.50, elimination of some trips from Routes 8 and 40, as well as the complete termination of Route 51 (the Orange Line Trolley), which serviced downtown OKC. Metro Transit would also no longer provided free transfers, but would introduce unlimited day and week passes that will be available for $4 and $15, respectively.
But many Oklahoma City citizens voiced disappointment with the possible elimination of the Metro Link, a reservation-based service. Toward the end of the June 8 council meeting, they were able to state their concerns and opinions about the proposed budget.
Metro Link is the only Metro Transit line that runs on Sundays and late evenings, and many complained that the Metro Link was their sole means of getting to church on Sunday.
"I hadn't been able to go to church in months, but Metro Link gave me the gift of worship again," said Joann Samuels. "To be without that again, well, it takes a lot out of me as a human being."
Still others utilize the service to get to or from work or school each evening. Some were even worried that without Metro Link, they wouldn't be able to keep their jobs.
"Why should we have to suffer for the department's bottom line?" asked Betty Allison, who relies on Metro Link to get to school each evening. "What am I supposed to do?"
But one of the most unique aspects to Metro Link is its "curb-to-curb" service that allows citizens to call and make reservations for personalized pickups. People can also schedule standing reservations if the trip takes place at least three days a week.
Many of Oklahoma City's physically disabled and visually impaired citizens use the service to keep living an active life of going to work or school. Several people advocated for the disabled, while others just spoke in support of themselves.
"Metro Link really does get us there," said James Gates, a wheelchair user. "It might be cliché, but you really don't know what you got till it's gone."
The City Council voted on the budget June 15. After Oklahoma City received better than expected May and June sales tax revenues, the City Council was able to use the additional revenue to keep the services alive in reformed states.
Routes 8 and 40 will continue peak hour service, Route 51 will run eight hours per day on Friday and Saturday and Metro Link services will continue with some realigned routes to maximize ridership and reduce service hours.
The COTPA board will consider all the service changes in July. Meanwhile, final fare and pass changes will go into effect Aug. 1. "Joshua Boydston
photo Cathy Tuton and her dog use the bus and Metro Link seven days a week. Tuton said she knows tourism is generating money for the city, but she thinks the Oklahoma City Council should be more concerned with the people living and working in OKC on a daily basis. Photo/Adam Kemp