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Tulsa Transit on a Mission to Court Millennials

Tulsa Transit

With their average passenger in their 50s, Tulsa Transit wants to get more Millennials on their buses.

Tulsa Transit board members saw public transportation was a big issue among Millennials in other U.S. cities, so they commissioned a study to find out why interest is lagging here. Assistant General Manager Debbie Ruggles said a lot of it comes down to convenience.

"They do support public transportation, and they will support expanded funding and expanded transit," Ruggles said. "What they won't do is ride a bus if it's not convenient for them."

Millennials account for just 18 percent of Tulsa Transit passengers. The study said the low cost of car ownership and a spread-out city keep many young Tulsa adults from riding the bus.

Those who have ridden a bus or just know someone who has gave positive feedback on a survey.

"Interestingly enough, many of the people who had not ridden the bus had very negative things to say," Ruggles said. "Even though they had not had a personal experience, somehow, in their mind, there were some negative things that had set up in their minds about public transportation."

The study made several recommendations to boost Millennial interest in Tulsa Transit, from improving the agency’s website to expanding payment options. Many solutions were inexpensive.

"It was a lot of sweat and, you know, a lot of staff time and a lot of that kind of thing involved," Ruggles said. "That's what we'll need to look at in terms of how far we can stretch our current staff in order to implement some of those things."

Other recommendations included partnering with schools and employers to offer reduced-price passes and doing a better job promoting Tulsa Transit services.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.