By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon city leaders are mulling a proposal to expand mass transit to this rapidly growing part of the Oklahoma City metro.
The Regional Transportation Authority of Central Oklahoma (RTA) is seeking input from the City of Yukon on its public transit program. Transit modes are:
- Commuter rail
- Light rail transit
- Fixed route bus
- Bus rapid transit
The RTA is responsible for developing, funding, constructing, implementing, operating, and maintaining transportation projects within the boundaries of the regional transportation district.
Established in 2019, the RTA is an independent government entity created by city councils of its founding members Del City, Edmond, Midwest City, Moore, Norman, and Oklahoma City.
“The RTA is really focused now on commuter rail,” executive director Jason Ferbrache said, “particularly because the RTA is looking to take advantage of the existing BNSF (Railway) corridor running through four of the six original cities.
“There’s some efficiencies there because there’s already track. It’s a matter of negotiating with BNSF for some ‘shared use’ and so forth.”
Ferbrache recently asked the Yukon City Council to consider joining the RTA as the authority develops a connected, high-capacity transit system in Oklahoma City and surrounding communities.
Membership requires the cities to pay a fee based on population and, ultimately, making a financial investment to help build and operate the public transit project.
“It’s contemplated the primary funding source to fund the operations will have to be a sales tax (approved by voters),” Ferbrache advised Yukon City Council members.
“The service is all within the jurisdictions of those participating cities because those would be the taxpayers funding it.”
Capital costs would include building stations and infrastructure along the corridors.
Projected operating costs (per passenger mile) of each transit mode are: Streetcar ($2.02), fixed bus route ($1.31), bus rapid transit ($1.31), light rail transit ($0.92), and commuter rail ($0.51).
Midwest City recently passed a resolution to withdraw as a member – and Ferbrache hopes Yukon will replace it.
“It’s something to look into and something that sounds wonderful,” Mayor Shelli Selby said. “It’s just that ‘pay-for-it’ part. That’s always difficult.”
RTA’s focus has been on connecting the north-south corridor from Edmond to Norman, including Oklahoma City and Moore; and the east corridor of Del City and Tinker Air Force Base (the region’s largest employer).
LOOKING TO THE WEST
RTA officials are now looking west to Canadian County (the state’s fastest-growing county), especially around Yukon and west Oklahoma City.
“That area is growing; we ought to at least contemplate including that in a long-term plan,” Ferbache opined.
The RTA was awarded a grant to provide planning funds to study two proposed transit corridors to the west.
“That would be something for the council to consider,” Ferbache told council members. “I know the RTA would be happy to engage in further discussions if Yukon was interested in being included in that study.
“We’re open to input, dialogue. We certainly want to try to capture all of the region if participating cities desire.”
Goals of RTA’s public transit system plan are to provide mobility and connectivity, equity and accessibility, economic and workforce development, and sustainability and viability.
“I know we have a lot of customers for light rail,” Yukon Ward 1 Council Member Rick Cacini said. “I see all the people complain about the roads and complain about the traffic on I-40. There’s a lot of traffic coming from El Reno and Yukon going into the downtown area, and past.
“So, it’s a great idea. I’m surprised we haven’t thought of it sooner.”
RTA’s transit operators are the Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority, EMBARK, CityLink Edmond, and the City of Norman.
“With Norman, Midwest City, Oklahoma City, and Edmond all having existing transit services, we have to make sure those existing providers connect to whatever this high-capacity transit it,” Ferbrache said.
The agency’s partners are the U.S. Department of Transportation, Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.
Ferbrache credited ACOG for starting this process to develop a mass transit system in the mid-2000s. Several studies were completed between 2005 and 2016, even before the RTA was formally established.
“The general idea was, ‘How do we, as a region, work together to develop public transit that will support the region – not only now, but into the future?’,” the director added.
RTA board members are former Gov. Brad Henry (chairman), Marion Hutchison (vice chairman), James Boggs, Mary Melon, Steve Eddy, Don Vick, and Aaron Budd.
Ferbrache and owners’ representative Kathryn Holmes oversee the RTA’s day-to-day administrative functions and project planning.
Learn more about the regional transit plan at www.rtaok.org/projects.