Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Businesses on Route Could Pay for Streetcar Operations

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Businesses on Route Could Pay for Streetcar Operations

Article excerpt

City leaders working out the route for a downtown streetcar have also started looking at how the system will be financially maintained once it's in place.

Citizens oversight subcommittee member Mark Gibbs said several options have already been identified, including parking revenues, rider fares and a business improvement district, or BID.

A streetcar BID would be a challenge to create, said Cathy O'Connor, president and CEO of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, because the streetcar would loop dozens of blocks. Stakeholders in the discussion assume that a streetcar will provide the greatest benefit to properties directly on the line, with a diminishing impact farther away.

City leaders promised residents several years ago that $129 million of a $777 million MAPS 3 sales tax initiative would go toward developing a streetcar system in the heart of the city, ostensibly the first major link in a much larger transit network that will be developed in years to come.

Construction on phase one of the project is expected to begin in 2015. The first phase includes 4 to 41/2 miles of the proposed 5- mile to 6-mile system.

Although the city will pay for the streetcar's creation, questions have been raised about maintaining it and whether those finances will drag on other transit programs such as bus routes. City Manager Jim Couch has said repeatedly that the general fund should be sufficient to handle the task.

"There are people who definitely want to create the image that there is no operational funding for this," Gibbs said. "Others who were around for the first MAPS projects remember that not every operational cost was immediately resolved when each of the projects were built, but they've all been successfully operated since then."

City Hall asked the Alliance to investigate options to fund the streetcar's maintenance anyway. …

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