Attention, Edmond-to-downtown Oklahoma City bus commuters: I come bearing bad news. The Edmond Citylink bus service to downtown OKC is ending on December 30.
I know this is not big news to most of my NW OKC-Edmond neighbors. There’s a certain stigma to taking public transportation in a well-to-do community where the automobile is king.
But all my adult life I’ve wanted to live in a city where public transportation was close enough to me that I could easily take it to work if I chose.
Once, I lived in a house near NW 50th and Hudson in Oklahoma City, and the city bus passed right by my residence. But the hours of my job in downtown OKC began in mid-afternoon and didn’t end until midnight or later.
So, there was no bus option to get home.
Then I married and, together with my wife, moved to far northwest OKC near Edmond Road and Western. There was no public transportation options within miles of my car-centric neighborhood.
Then I learned about Edmond’s Citylink bus service that connects downtown Edmond to downtown Oklahoma City. It’s called the Expresslink bus.
By now, my work was located in the Research Park at NW 8th and Lincoln just east of downtown. Turns out, the Expresslink bus went right by the Research Park.
So, looked at the schedule and figured out that I could drive 3 miles to the Edmond Festival Marketplace, park my car and catch the free 7:15 am bus that would let me off right at the Research Park entrance.
Did I mention that it’s free?
So, it cost me nothing to ride and saved gas expense and wear and tear on my car. I could step out of my office and walk just a few yards to catch the bus back to Edmond at the end of the day.
Perfect. I caught the Expresslink bus off and on for several years.
Then my professional life moved to a work-from-home situation. I’ve only taken the Expresslink bus one time in the past three years or so.
I’m off the bus now, so to speak, but still found the recent news disheartening that Edmond will end the Expresslink bus at the end of the year.
Most of the time, when I rode that route, there were 12-to-18 people who rode with me on the 7:15 am bus.
Among Edmond residents who often took the Expresslink bus downtown was my friend Dan Lovejoy.
“The bus is nice,” Dan said when I asked him about why he took the bus instead of driving into OKC. “It’s not much slower than driving – and I can work or rest on it. It forces me to leave on a schedule and not stay too late.”
Many — or most — riders boarded the bus as an alternative to rush hour driving, as Dan did.
“One distinguishing characteristic of successful public transport is — do people who don’t have to take it actually take it?” he said. “On Edmond Express at least, people rode it who didn’t have to ride it.”
Today, Dan drives an electric vehicle, which cuts down fuel costs. He also has a job in which he works at home a couple days a week, so he’s not taking the bus on a routine basis.
“I wonder if there are a lot of folks like me who just aren’t commuting much any more,” he said.
I’m convinced the pandemic has had a major impact on Expresslink ridership. Many people like Dan are able to work from home at least a couple days a week.
I emailed Christy Batterson, Edmond Transit Program Manager, to inquire about ridership numbers, but she did not respond.
The transportation news isn’t all bad, however. There’s a silver lining in far distant clouds.
Edmond is part of the Regional Transportation Authority of Central Oklahoma, which has long-range plans to operate a commuter rail service from Edmond to downtown OKC to Norman.
That’s a pretty exciting prospect, not only for a rail fan like me, but for potentially hundreds of Edmond commuters who could take the train in to downtown OKC each work day.
Of course, it all depends on overcoming the stigma of boarding public transportation in Edmond, Oklahoma.