Editor’s note: this news release from ODOT came in today. While it doesn’t affect Luther it leads to the question of whether our community could benefit from public transportation. Could it?
New buses drive rural transit to the future
Two federal grants are coming to Oklahoma to make public transit services safer, more accessible and more efficient. On Sept. 8, the Federal Transit Administration announced the recipients of funding through the competitive Bus and Bus Facilities Grant Program, which included grants awarded to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for rural transit and the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority’s EMBARK service in Oklahoma City.
The nearly $3.6 million grant to ODOT will help 10 rural transit providers modernize their fleets with more accessible and reliable vehicles. This federal funding will be combined with local matching dollars to allow the providers to collectively replace 80 older buses and vans that have met or exceeded their useful lives with new vehicles compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was one of 61 grants awarded nationwide.
“Public transit plays a crucial role in the daily lives of Oklahomans in small cities and rural areas, and demand for this service is only going to increase,” ODOT Transit Programs Division Manager Ernie Mbroh said. “ODOT will continue to actively pursue any additional funding to help our transit providers update their fleets.”
Transit ridership is increasing, not only in urban areas, but also in rural communities where Oklahomans face longer commutes to work and the elderly and disabled seek access to medical care and other services. Data collected for the state’s current Long Range Transportation Plan shows that rural transit ridership in Oklahoma increased by 8.7 percent, doubling the rate increase in urban ridership, from 2009 to 2013.
Together, the 10 rural transit providers that will utilize this grant funding serve 1.6 million Oklahomans in 44 counties. They include:
Additionally, EMBARK, which is operated by COTPA in Oklahoma City, was awarded a $1.9 million grant to purchase new buses fueled by compressed natural gas. For more information, contact the City of Oklahoma City at www.okc.gov.
Oklahoma has been aggressive and successful in seeking additional federal grants for transportation in recent years. In 2014, an application by ODOT in partnership with the Oklahoma Transit Association yielded a $4.1 million Ladders of Opportunity grant from FTA to help several rural transit providers replace aging vehicles.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation administers designated state and federal funding to tribal, nonprofit and local government entities that operate rural transit services in the state. A list of providers and contact information can be found at www.okladot.state.ok.us/
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ODOT is for ANYTHING that uses paved roads. ODOT works for the road pavers, you see. In fact – it’s very nearly impossible to tell the difference in ODOT and the road paving companies as, from the position of Secretary of Transportation down in Oklahoma state government, the personnel who work as bureaucrats today will likely be working for the big contractors tomorrow (and vice-versa….).
In UTAH, however, new home of 14-year Oklahoma 5th District Congressman Ernest J. Istook, the primary transit mode is now RAIL. Yes – Istook is the guy who, as Transportation Subcommittee Chairman of U.S. House Appropriations, funded knuckle-draggers McCaleb, Ridley, Streb and Bowman’s slobbering obsession to destroy OKC Union Station’s elegant and historic 12-track-wide, 8-block-long, at-grade rail passenger yard with a hyper-expensive and completely unnecessary relocation of OKC’s “I-40 Crosstown.” This was also apparently important to Istook as he knew very well that his pals in Utah would require ongoing federal operating money for the nifty new rail network he largely start-up funded for them — and that crippling the rather amazing then-extant rail network spanning the OKC Metro via the Union Station center though the obliteration of that center would slow any serious Oklahoma entry into real transit by at least a generation.
Yes, yes — it was Istook who “convinced” OKC’s leaders that “buses were just as good as trains.” I’d be happy to show you photos of the “Istook trolleys” — loud, smelly, hard-riding fake-trolleys on truck chassis — accepted by local governments while Salt Lake insisted on modern electric trains — but those ugly buses are now worn out and no longer in service. (While the trains in Utah are still like new.)
Check the map at the link below (click on it once you have it on your screen to enlarge) and see if any of the rail lines shown might not have made GREAT, day-to-day, non-highway people-movers for your area without building or expanding roads.
You see — the problem with using these assets – most of them then owned by the state – is that it “would have been too cheap.” Make no mistake that the REAL job of today’ s Oklahoma Department of Transportation bosses is to keep the taxpayers’ money flowing, at the highest possible volume, into the pockets of the big contractors in whose employment a good many of them will likely be working later.