- Oklahoma City has opened its $135 million streetcar system to the public, part of a redesigned transit plan that city officials say will catalyze economic development downtown.
- The streetcar service will run on two routes: a 4.8-mile Downtown Loop and a 2-mile Bricktown Loop. Each streetcar can hold 104 passengers with stops being served every 15-18 minutes, and they will run until midnight during the week and until 2 a.m. on weekends.
- The city is offering free rides through Jan. 5, and expected between 10,000 and 15,000 riders on the opening weekend. Fares will be $1 for a single ride or $3 for a 24-hour pass.
Oklahoma City residents first voted to approve the streetcar project in 2009 as part of a broader economic redevelopment plan known as Metropolitan Area Projects Plan 3 (MAPS 3) backed by a 1-cent sales tax. That program — which included construction of a convention center and a public park — was meant to revitalize the city’s downtown, including overhauling the transportation network to make it more walkable.
In a statement, Mayor David Holt said the streetcar will be an "important economic development tool" that will "encourage walkability downtown, answer the question of how residents and visitors will circulate downtown once they arrive, and will inspire private investment all along the route."
“Already we’ve seen $1.6 billion invested since the route was finalized, and we have every reason to believe that more will follow once the streetcar is open,” Holt said. “The possibilities are endless and exciting."
Cities are increasingly looking to streetcars as part of transit overhauls; Portland, OR adopted them in 2001, and over the past four years cities including Detroit, Dallas and Milwaukee have all explored their own streetcar lines. The lines hold plenty of appeal, since they can run on electric power, on predictable routes and form a sense of community along business or downtown districts. The streetcar in Kansas City, MO has been credited with reviving that city's downtown. Still many projects have been hit by cost overruns or management problems, including a high-profile project in Atlanta and a canceled project in Arlington, VA.