Editor’s note: this news release from ODOT came in today. While it doesn’t affect Luther it leads to the question of whether our community could benefit from public transportation. Could it?
New buses drive rural transit to the future
Two federal grants are coming to Oklahoma to make public transit services safer, more accessible and more efficient. On Sept. 8, the Federal Transit Administration announced the recipients of funding through the competitive Bus and Bus Facilities Grant Program, which included grants awarded to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for rural transit and the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority’s EMBARK service in Oklahoma City.
The nearly $3.6 million grant to ODOT will help 10 rural transit providers modernize their fleets with more accessible and reliable vehicles. This federal funding will be combined with local matching dollars to allow the providers to collectively replace 80 older buses and vans that have met or exceeded their useful lives with new vehicles compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was one of 61 grants awarded nationwide.
“Public transit plays a crucial role in the daily lives of Oklahomans in small cities and rural areas, and demand for this service is only going to increase,” ODOT Transit Programs Division Manager Ernie Mbroh said. “ODOT will continue to actively pursue any additional funding to help our transit providers update their fleets.”
Transit ridership is increasing, not only in urban areas, but also in rural communities where Oklahomans face longer commutes to work and the elderly and disabled seek access to medical care and other services. Data collected for the state’s current Long Range Transportation Plan shows that rural transit ridership in Oklahoma increased by 8.7 percent, doubling the rate increase in urban ridership, from 2009 to 2013.
Together, the 10 rural transit providers that will utilize this grant funding serve 1.6 million Oklahomans in 44 counties. They include:
Additionally, EMBARK, which is operated by COTPA in Oklahoma City, was awarded a $1.9 million grant to purchase new buses fueled by compressed natural gas. For more information, contact the City of Oklahoma City at www.okc.gov.
Oklahoma has been aggressive and successful in seeking additional federal grants for transportation in recent years. In 2014, an application by ODOT in partnership with the Oklahoma Transit Association yielded a $4.1 million Ladders of Opportunity grant from FTA to help several rural transit providers replace aging vehicles.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation administers designated state and federal funding to tribal, nonprofit and local government entities that operate rural transit services in the state. A list of providers and contact information can be found at www.okladot.state.ok.us/