Tulsa Transit Leading Push for More Public Transportation Funding

Dec 5, 2018

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit is leading a push to get state lawmakers to find more public transportation funding.

One part will be an increase in direct state funding. Tulsa Transit General Manager Ted Rieck said state funding last went up in 2003, going from $1.2 million to $5.6 million.

"So, if it goes up 4.5 times this time, it gets you to around $25 million. So, it’s just trying to be proportional to what it was 15 years ago," Rieck said.

A similar increase now would net Tulsa Transit around $4.5 million. State transit funding from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is distributed among urban, rural and tribal systems.

Working with the Oklahoma Transit Association, Tulsa Transit is also seeking legislation allowing local funding for public transportation other than sales tax.

"We think the sales tax has been pretty much tapped out locally in terms of its level. So, by having other options available, could make people more open to the possibility of funding transit on a community-wide basis," Rieck said.

Tulsa Transit projects if nothing is done to increase funding, it will operate at a loss starting in fiscal year 2020. Rieck said the boost is needed to stabilize funding, begin the 11th Street bus rapid transit route and get all fixed routes to 30-minute service.

To help their cause, Tulsa Transit has formed a group called MOVE 918 Regional Transit Alliance. Chair Andrew Carlson said they’ll tell lawmakers the local benefits of public transportation.

"So, business development, growing our economy — helping a multitude of people — veterans, elderly — within our community," Carlson said.

Tulsa Transit has commissioned studies from OSU and North Dakota State University to support the requests. Those studies should be done next month, and Rieck said state Rep. Carol Bush has agreed to help advance needed legislation.