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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — In session Tuesday, the City Council of Oklahoma City heard a presentation on the annual user survey from EMBARK, and an update on economic development from Roy Williams, President and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

The Council also heard about plans for bicycle infrastructure along SE 59th Street, though action was deferred.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

EMBARK Survey

EMBARK, Oklahoma City’s public transit, and parking authority conducts an annual customer service survey of riders. Every other year, they include a survey for non-riders among Oklahoma City residents. 

A representative from the ETC Institute, the company that administers the surveys and aggregates the data, presented the results of the most recent surveys.

In general, the survey found that non-riders in Oklahoma City still overwhelmingly believe in the value of a robust public transit system. A major driver of that support is the perceived effect on economic development and accessibility to jobs.

Among those non-riders surveyed, 8 out of 10 knew what EMBARK is, which is a higher rate than in peer cities and reflects the good work EMBARK’s marketing team has done to raise awareness of the brand and its services.

As for the customer service survey, results were positive in spite of the difficulty transit systems faced during the pandemic. 

According to the expert presenting the findings, EMBARK fared a lot better than many other transit systems of similar size. EMBARK stayed fairly consistent in service levels during the past year and a half of difficulties.

In spite of many safety precautions, including limited seating on buses and the streetcar, riders surveyed were mostly satisfied with EMBARK’s service. In fact, streetcar users were overwhelmingly satisfied.

Survey responses showed that 66% of streetcar users were visitors to downtown Oklahoma City. 1 in 10 riders live or work in the downtown area.

Areas for improvement suggested to EMBARK by the data, emphasize the frequency of service. More than half of EMBARK bus riders make at least one transfer per trip. 

While that’s currently baked into our transit-hub-style system, improving those connections will pay dividends for riders on their way to work or appointments, and generally cut down on commute times, which is an attractive outcome for transportation.

Chamber Update

Roy Williams, President and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, provided an update on economic development in Oklahoma City over the past fiscal year.

Williams’s report was positive and optimistic about the bounceback of sections of our local economy, including what appears to be a steady increase in the hospitality sector.

Williams touted the Chamber’s legislative agenda successes. The legislature passed and Governor Stitt signed a regional transit bill. They also passed a bill allowing municipalities like Oklahoma City to ban guns in some public spaces during some events, so if the Kings of Leon return to Scissortail Park people might feel safer attending.

The aerospace industry continues its rise to economic prominence in the state, according to Williams. He explained that now 40% of aerospace employment is in the private sector, an area where central Oklahoma is excelling.

Williams also emphasized the Chamber’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice pushed back at this assertion, as she has repeatedly over the past many months.

Nice said that she hasn’t seen anything from the Chamber that shows they are practicing diversity and inclusion. She mused that perhaps there was a special tab on their website she hadn’t found.

Williams replied that the Chamber has partnered with the Urban League, an answer that Nice seemed to find unsatisfying.

Nice pointed out that the Chamber doesn’t show much diversity as an entity. She asked what evidence they had that they had made such a commitment.

Williams did not respond to Nice’s question. Nice then said, “That speaks to my concern,” referring to Williams’s silence.

Bike Infrastructure

Eric Wenger, Director of Public Works, brought a presentation on a Better Streets Safer City project to build dedicated bike lanes on a portion of SE 59th Street.

The project will include a reconfiguration of lanes on the street near Eastern. Lanes will be reduced from four full lanes for motor vehicles, to two lanes, with a center turn lane, and a bike lane on each side with a two-foot buffer and delineators.

When several members of the council had questions about the impact on drivers in the area and received less information than desired, Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher moved to defer the item for two weeks in order to gather more information.

That item and more will be covered at the next meeting of the City Council on August 3 at 8:30 a.m.


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Last Updated July 20, 2021, 10:48 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor