Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Council moves on commuter rail

3 new revelations in getting commuter rail up and running in OKC..

1. OKC City Council voted this week to pass a resolution in support of Midwest City's request for federal grants to do commuter rail between Tinker AFB and Downtown OKC.

2. The resolution, according to Mayor Mick indicates OKC's willingness to come up with a funding match should it be necessary to obtain a federal grant. Also the resolution indicated interest in obtaining federal grants for a Norman-Edmond line, yet I think that's neither here nor there and they should have left that out.

3. On the same measure they also asked ACOG to do a study to determine the best location for a possible downtown multi-modal transit hub.

Of course with that, the question remains.. don't we think we should hold off on a MAPS 3 package until we know the best location for a downtown transit hub? Believe it or not transit is kinda important.

More on the Midwest City line
The route follows an existing rail right-of-way that the state bought up for cheap (about $350,000), which according to ACOG officials, gives Midwest City a $20 million advantage over other cities when it comes to putting in a commuter rail link to Downtown OKC. The total cost of the proposed line is slightly above $12 million for five miles (route map here). About $5 million for the rail cars, and about $7 million for rehabilitation of the rails.

With all that said, I think it's fair to question whether this line is really a good idea. What is it really connecting? Midwest City jokes aside, this is basically connecting downtown to Tinker AFB..connecting the #1 concentration of jobs to the #2 concentration of jobs (granted there are 55,000 people that live in MWC). Whereas a Norman-Edmond line would connect several larger residential suburbs to downtown and link a few inner-city areas together as well, obviously a better deal.

Before you're put off on whether MWC/Tinker needs a commuter rail line to downtown, consider that the recent 2005 Downtown Housing Study cited that the overwhelming majority of downtown residents do not even work in downtown, or close to downtown. So in the context of growing downtown, stop thinking of downtown as a concentration of jobs and start thinking of it as a viable residential community no different from the Deer Creek or Moore areas, just a different style. With over 26,000 employees at Tinker, think of how accessible this makes downtown housing to thousands of stable, high incomes.

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