In a nearly five-hour long meeting Tuesday, the City Council of Oklahoma City heard an overview of the upcoming Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, a budget presentation from the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), renamed a street, and a plan to install ramps at the new MAPS 3 Convention Center.
All Councilors were in attendance virtually, along with the Mayor and City Manager.
Bus Rapid Transit
Jason Ferbrache, Director of EMBARK, introduced consultants from the firm HNTB to update the Council on progress made so far in creating the Northwest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
Readers may remember Free Press reporting on EMBARK’s virtual town hall about the BRT earlier this year.
As of now, 30% of the design process is completed. The BRT will have stops along a path from downtown all the way to Northwest Expressway and Meridian.
The new line would include 21 stops on a one-way trip, and fifteen minute frequency during peak hours, which Ferbrache described as 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
He said an average trip would take barely any longer than driving a personal vehicle would.
The buses for the BRT will also have signal prioritization that will keep traffic lights green when a bus is approaching, or turn the light green if it’s red when the bus approaches.
The design for the BRT platforms includes bike lanes that pass behind the platform from NW 10th to NW 16th.
There are also plans for as many as three park-and-ride locations. These parking lots in close proximity to the BRT will be at the end of the route at Northwest Expressway and Meridian, downtown at the Century Center parking garage, and somewhere near NW 50th and Pennsylvania.
Service is projected to begin in October of 2023. For more information about the BRT, see EMBARK’s website at embarkok.com/brt.
Convention and Visitors Bureau
Zac Craig, the new president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) delivered a budget presentation to the Council. In the presentation he asked for an amendment for the current budget. The CVB requested $346,105 in addition to their original $1 million budget. The additional money will be used for event sponsorship.
Craig listed their budget priorities as rebuilding staff, enhancing digital assets, revitalizing the Certified Tourism Ambassador program, and increasing exposure for both leisure and convention travel.
Craig said that before the pandemic, the CVB had a staff of 24. That number is currently down to 14.
As for marketing Oklahoma City, one of the strategies Craig’s team has devised is to increase site visits with travel writers, media, influencers, meeting planners, and tour operators. Craig talked about the many assets across the metro area that should be drawing interest, including some amenities that have only been unveiled in the last year.
Equine events thrived in Oklahoma City, in spite of the deadly pandemic Craig reported. He cited other states closing down for some of the equine traffic the City has seen over the past year.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice thanked Craig for his organization being very intentional about diversity. She said she hopes the Chamber of Commerce learns from them.
David Todd, MAPS Program Manager, explained a change order for the construction of the MAPS 3 Convention Center. The $300 million structure opened this winter.
Todd explained that the third and fourth floors are separated by only about four feet of elevation, both of which are reachable by elevator. However, moving from one to the other may only be done by using stairs.
Todd was sure to include that this wasn’t a mistake or a design flaw.
New ramps are going to be built to make the two areas equally accessible. The cost will be $405,372.
Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher brought forward an item regarding a change in the name of what is currently Hertz Quail Springs Parkway from Quail Springs Parkway to NW 150th Street. Stonecipher was given the task by Mayor Holt to find a more appropriate name for the street, which is less than a mile long.
Hertz filed for bankruptcy and vacated their property along the Parkway several years ago. Since then Costco has acquired the property. Mayor Holt described naming a city street after a company as “free advertising subsidized by the taxpayers.”
Stonecipher said that he thought about it long and hard and chose to name the street the Bogert Parkway, after Richard Bogert. Bogert was a civic leader and philanthropist who passed away in recent years. Stonecipher had great regard for Mr. Bogert.
The first stop for the proposal was the Planning Commission where it was unanimously voted for denial.
Stonecipher pointed out that the Commission hadn’t heard the full history. Councilors Nice of Ward 7 and JoBeth Hamon of Ward 6 had concerns that the Planning Commission hadn’t heard all the details. Nice suggested sending the item back to the Commission so that they could make a more informed decision.
Indeed, most of what the Commission heard were the very eloquent protestations from the businesses located there. The businesses would have to change their addresses, as well as encountering costs for new stationary. One business expanded to Oklahoma during the pandemic and all of their marketing has included the street name “Hertz Quail Springs Parkway.”
In spite of the Planning Commission’s vote, and the concerns particularly of Nice, Stonecipher moved the item for approval. It passed 8-1, with Nice voting against.
The name change will roll out over the next two years, allowing businesses time to adjust.
The Council will return on May 18 at 8:30 a.m. for more budget hearings.
(Disclosure: Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon is the wife of reporter Marty Peercy.)
Last Updated May 11, 2021, 4:00 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor