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The monthly meeting of the Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority (COTPA) was held Friday by teleconference. All trustees were present to receive updates and vote on several issues pertaining to public transit and parking including security, land purchase negotiation, and emergency powers.

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Emergency Declaration

The Trust voted to approve the declaration of a state of emergency for EMBARK. This allows the director of EMBARK to waive competitive bidding and move to informal bidding or to use emergency purchasing authority if a vendor fails to provide goods or services in a timely manner.

Jason Ferbrache, Director of EMBARK, also explained some of the emergency precautions being taken in the transit system. Already buses have limited seating on each bus so that passengers are separated by at least three feet. Additionally, all passengers are asked to exit through the rear door to limit exposure for bus operators.

New Schedule

Ferbrache said that in response to the emergency, EMBARK buses will be starting a new schedule as of Sunday.

Buses will move to a twelve hour operation beginning service at 6:30 a.m. and ending service at 6:30 p.m. In this schedule, most buses will now run on an hourly schedule. Four routes will retain their half-hour operation (023, 002, 005, and 038) and three routes will run on a 45 minute schedule (012, 013, and 014).

Access to the Transit Center has been restricted for only purchasing of fare or use of restroom facilities.

Security Contracts

The Trust undertook two items regarding security contracts for EMBARK.

The first was for streetcar fare inspection and security with a company called Elite Protections Services for a $300,000 annual cost. The services provided, Ferbrache explained, include fare enforcement on the streetcar, security at the Transit Center, and security at the streetcar facility.

The second contract is with Superior Security Investigations to provide security services at various transit locations for an annual amount not to exceed $50,000. Ferbrache explained that this contract is for security services in the event that Elite is not able to provide full security at a given time.

Ferbrache pointed out that these contracts do not include the off-duty police officers who provide security for EMBARK at the Transit Center and elsewhere. Each off-duty officer who provides security for EMBARK does so as an individual vendor.

Specific budget amounts were not available as of time of publication, though EMBARK staff are currently working to provide those numbers to Free Press.

Bus Rapid Transit

The Trust voted to approve paying HNTB Corporation $1,433,848 for engineering services for Phase II of the Northwest Bus Rapid Transit Project. The firm will be providing engineering services, rendering, public meeting facilitation, bus procurement consulting, and more.

Engineering is expected to be finished in the final quarter of 2021, with construction beginning at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022.

Land Acquisition

The trust also approved on Friday a measure to give Ferbrache power to negotiate in the purchase of a parcel of land.

Ferbrache explained that the MAPS 4 package included money for transit and a portion of that money is planned to be used for the physical expansion of the EMBARK facility.

Ferbrache was reticent about giving many details, as that might potentially weaken his negotiation position, but he reassured the Trust that this would not give him purchasing power for a property. Rather, this would enable him to negotiate a potential purchase agreement to be brought to the Trust to accept.

Financial Report

Ferbrache closed the meeting with a report on the current financial situation for EMBARK, including the parking garages downtown.

He reported that federal grant money has been $2.5 million less than projected for the eight months ending on February 29.

However, he said, the CARES Act recently passed should offer some reimbursement for public transit.

Ferbrache went on to say that staff has been examining parking revenues. With little transient use and no event use, revenues are down making debt service difficult. He reassured the Trust that there are significant reserves, but pointed out that the next two months will tell a story about what the future holds for those reserves.

The COTPA Trust will meet again on May Day.


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