For the first time, the State of Oklahoma has developed a statewide plan for public transportation that unites urban and rural transit services by laying out mobility priorities for the next 20 years. On Friday, Oct. 23, the draft Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan was released to the public by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation in partnership with the Oklahoma Transit Association, which represents public transit providers. The full plan is available to the public for review and comment at www.oktransitplan.org through late November.
“With rapidly increasing mobility needs in urban and rural parts of the state, public transit planning has never been more important in Oklahoma,” Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz said. “This plan contains the first detailed study of the projected transit needs of our communities and begins to explore the changes and resources that may be necessary to modernize services and meet future demand.”
The plan outlines the goals, strategies, objectives and priorities to make Oklahoma a Top Ten state for public transit by 2040. Highlights from the plan include identification of the existing gap in funding for transit based on current and future projected needs, a strategic investment schedule outlining the best use of funds through 2040 and an in-depth examination of transit funding options used by peer states.
“Completion of the Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan is just the beginning of a new era of cooperation and coordination between ODOT and the state’s public transit providers,” OTA Chief Executive Officer Mark Nestlen said. “We really appreciate the input from our transit providers, stakeholders and the public, and we really hope this plan will be a helpful tool for the legislature to help ensure mobility for all Oklahomans.”
Development of the transit plan was directed in 2019 by the passage of House Bill 1365, which created the Office of Mobility and Public Transit at ODOT and gave the agency responsibilities for administering new programs and statewide planning in partnership with transit providers. Rather than a list of specific projects or service routes, the transit plan focuses on overall mobility priorities and goals for improving transit service and connectivity. The plan was created with input from every transit provider in Oklahoma, from rural agencies like KI BOIS Area Transit System that operates in several southeastern Oklahoma counties to large urban transit systems like EMBARK, which provides daily bus and streetcar service in the Oklahoma City metro area. The department and OTA held numerous stakeholder and public meetings to get input from transit operators, riders, partner agencies, government officials and advocates, as well as administered an online survey that garnered more than 2,000 responses from the public.
Since 1990, dedicated state funding has been allocated to the Public Transit Revolving Fund to be used by ODOT to assist the state’s public transit agencies match federal funds from the Federal Transit Administration. The state does not operate public transportation services directly; ODOT administers nearly $26 million in federal and state funds annually to 20 rural public transit operators, which include local governments and nonprofit community agencies, in addition to more than 130 organizations that provide transportation services to seniors and individuals with disabilities. Tribal governments and the state’s three urban areas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton, receive and administer federal funds from FTA directly.
The Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan can be viewed at www.oktransitplan.org and public comments will be accepted through Nov. 21. Feedback can be sent to ODOT by email at email@example.com or by mail at Oklahoma Dept. of Transportation, Strategic Asset and Performance Management Division, 200 N.E. 21st St., Ste. 3-A4, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.
After the comment period concludes, the final plan will be delivered to Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Oklahoma Senate and the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is accepting public comment on the draft Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan through Nov. 21 at www.oktransitplan.org. The plan was developed in partnership with the Oklahoma Transit Association and in close coordination with the state’s transit providers.