Discovering real value of OKC Streetcar

Streetcar2
OKC Streetcar at the Business District stop in downtown Oklahoma City

A few weeks ago, I made the argument in a blog post that the OKC Streetcar had no real purpose, even though I’m a huge fan.

The point was that the Streetcar has no destination, so you can’t really plan a trip, say to the Capitol from downtown. You can read the post here.

After this past weekend of big downtown events, I think I need to revisit the subject.

I made the argument in the original post that maybe the Streetcar could find a purpose by providing transportation into downtown for big events like Thunder games.

Rather than enduring traffic jams and competing for expensive parking near the Chesapeake Arena, fans could find parking near the north end of the Streetcar and ride down to the arena.

Bingo.

Aboard
Aboard the OKC Streetcar, Arts Fest bound

This past weekend confirmed to me that the Streetcar can indeed bring value to our population. With the OKC PrideFest and Arts Festival ongoing simultaneously, thousands of people were drawn to downtown.

My family and I drove downtown Friday evening to visit the Arts Fest and found a convenient (and empty!) lot near N. 11th Street. It was near the North Hudson Streetcar stop.

So, we caught the Streetcar there and rode it down to the Business District stop. We exited and walked a block over to the Arts Fest.

Turns out, there were scores of others who had the same idea. We boarded a Streetcar that had a least 20 people on it along with four others at our stop.

We saw multiple groups of people parking and walking to the northern-most Streetcar stops to ride into the downtown.

My friend Steve reports that his family visited the Arts Fest on Saturday and took the Streetcar down from the North Hudson stop, as well.

When Steve and his family left the Arts Fest to make the return trip, the car on which they rode was packed with more than 50 people, he said.

Of course, the Streetcar was free last week. so take that into account.

And, as Steve points out, occasional festivals and NBA games don’t create ongoing value for the Streetcar.

paula streetcar1
Paula and grandson Solomon Stafford at OKC Streetcar Library stop

This morning’s edition of The Oklahoman has an in-depth look at the Streetcar and makes the case that its real value is that of encouraging investment in real estate and construction downtown.

That’s not exactly an endorsement of a Streetcar that serves the greater good.

“It truly is a downtown novelty until ridership is majority residential commuter,” Steve said.

If that is true, then we need a bigger downtown population that is willing to give up their cars to commute, along with an extension of the Streetcar line.

I’m still arguing for a connection to the nearby University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Capitol.

But I took heart in the numbers of people this past weekend who found value in the Streetcar as a means of transportation to big downtown events.

The OKC Streetcar proved to me that it has an actual purpose beyond real estate development and tourism.

It IS there to serve the greater good.

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jimstafford

I'm an Oklahoma City-based freelance writer with interests in Oklahoma startup community, Apple Inc, OKC Thunder & Texas Rangers.

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