Let me say first that I love the OKC Streetcar. I love to ride the rails of any sort whether trains, subway or streetcar.
Especially OUR Streetcar.
When the OKC Streetcar launched in December 2018, I made a day of it. I took Edmond’s CityLink bus to downtown OKC, walked over to Leadership Square and caught the tail end of the opening ceremony followed by the launch of the inaugural ride.
Then I walked over to the Library stop, caught the second Streetcar that came by and rode the entire downtown loop, which took almost an hour.
The next month, downtown for a Thunder game with my family, we parked near the Chesapeake Arena and caught the Streetcar up to Automobile Alley, where we exited and walked over to Hideaway Pizza for a pregame meal.
We then caught the Streetcar at the OCU Law School stop and rode it back down to the Cox Center, from where we walked into the arena just as the National Anthem was being performed.
So, yes, I love the OKC Streetcar.
But there’s a problem.
I have no reason to ride it because it’s a Streetcar that goes, well, nowhere. It’s a loop through downtown from Bricktown to Scissortail Park up to NW 11th Street and back down.
As much as I love the rails, our Streetcar wasn’t built for a commuter who would love to use it to get to downtown instead of to ride around downtown in a loop.
As much as people don’t like to hear it, it was built as a tourist attraction.
So, from my point of view, the OKC Streetcar doesn’t serve the population. You see Streetcars go by all the time that are virtually empty. The numbers recently released by Embark show that lack of ridership, although as it pointed out, the Pandemic did it no favors over the past year.
But we have the Streetcar and I still love it. I’m just trying to figure out how it can be made more useful to a commuting population.
For instance, perhaps there could be sort of a commuter lot on the north edge of downtown devoted to people who drive in for a big event like a Thunder game or Scissortail Park concert. They could park at the lot, take the Streetcar on down and not worry about finding a parking space.
Now that would fill an actual need.
My friend, whom I will call “Steve”, suggests a faster Streetcar and new routes.
“Speed and a spur to populated areas to make it a commuter option,” Steve said. “It just takes way too long to get around the segments.”
Thank you, Steve. A commuter option is exactly what it needs.
New routes would be a major financial hurdle at this point. But the Streetcar needs desperately to connect the OKC Innovation District, the OU Health Sciences Center campus and the Capitol — and NE 23rd Street — to downtown.
Someone please make that happen. Then we would no longer have a Streetcar to nowhere.
We would have a Streetcar with a purpose.