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A fresh coat of paint: MetroLink Tulsa officially unveiled

Ben Abrams

Members of the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority were joined by Mayor G.T. Bynum, Councilor Jeannie Cue and others Monday to officially unveil the transit system's new look and name.

"MetroLink Tulsa," a rebrand which was approved by the MTTA board in December, will begin popping up on the sides of busses and vans in the coming months.

"A lot of work went into this," said Scott Marr, the MTTA's general manager, in front of a small audience at Midtown Memorial Station. Marr said it took nearly two years for the transit authority to finalize the rebrand.

"We've been Tulsa Transit since 1980. 45 years. We've made so many changes to our services. No bigger change than this name change today."

Bynum praised the new look, emphasizing it was part of a larger metamorphosis.

“Our public transit system in Tulsa has really radically transformed over the last decade," Bynum said. "It is not just the old clunker bus system that so many of us knew for decades."

The MTTA began operation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in 2019, which runs straight along Peoria Avenue. The transit authority is still working on one for Route 66, which has been delayed due to budget constraints.

MTTA reports ridership numbers are in recovery after plunging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We’ve seen our ridership increase by 100,000 a month," said Marr. "So, we’re getting back to those pre-COVID numbers.”

Marr, who took over the the city's top transit job in 2022, is confident the uptick in ridership shows a strong future for MetroLink.

The new name could also open up optional partnerships in the greater Tulsa metro area, something Bynum alluded to.

"Connecting people throughout our metro area is going to make us more economically competitive in the future," he said.

"We want to shift public transit from being a vehicle of last resort to a vehicle of choice."

Small steps

In addition to the BRT, Tulsa's existing fixed bus routes have been complimented over the years by additions like Micro Transit, a quasi-ride-sharing option within certain zones that connects riders to other bus routes.

Bynum emphasized that the transit system's improvements must be small before major investments, such as light rail, can be put on the table.

"15 years ago, being in town hall meetings, people were saying 'oh, we want light rail, we see all these great cities have light rail.' Well, light rail is extremely expensive," he said.

Bynum said Tulsans need to become more accustomed to public transit as a choice mode of transportation before moving on to bigger investments.

"You don't jump out and do that when you don't have proven ridership," he said.

Ben Abrams is a news reporter and All Things Considered host for KWGS.
Check out all of Ben's links and contact info here.