Tulsa Transit

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit is losing its current general manager at the end of the month.

Ted Rieck is taking the job as CEO of Jaunt, the transit authority of Charlottesville, Virginia. Rieck had announced in August he intended to retire in August 2022 but said he was pursuing the Jaunt job at the same time, and it’s too exciting an opportunity to pass up.

Roland Leach / U.S. Air Force

Starting Monday, all Tulsa Transit passengers must obtain an exemption from the agency if they’re going to ride a bus without a mask.

The process involves submitting a form signed by a licensed physician, and approved riders will have to show a letter from Tulsa Transit to drivers each time they board a bus. There is a federal mask requirement in place for public transportation, but General Manager Ted Rieck said Tulsa Transit is trying to make it easier on the drivers who must deal with passengers who don’t want to mask up. The agency is already having trouble retaining drivers.

With news earlier this month President Joe Biden will require many employers to test their unvaccinated workers for COVID-19 weekly, Tulsa Transit is holding off on its own policy on vaccination or testing.

The idea came up last month to possibly push more Tulsa Transit employees to get vaccinated. Only about 50% are.

General Manager Ted Rieck told the transit board this week they would wait to see what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Biden ordered to write the rules comes up with.

The Tulsa Transit board has approved raises for the agency's senior managers.

A recent study looking at comparable transit systems found members of Tulsa Transit's management team are paid on average 79% of what their peers across the country make. The agency will spend about $51,500 a year to bring them to 90% of market rates.

General Manager Ted Rieck said without the raises, Tulsa Transit runs the risk of losing managers with transferable skills, like its human resources, information technology and maintenance directors, as well as its chief financial officer.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit is studying a policy to encourage employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

General Manager Ted Rieck told the transit board of trustees on Tuesday they’ve hit a plateau at around 50% vaccinated. 

"In order to protect the employees as well as the riders, we want to get to a higher percentage compliance. So, we are going to study — we're certainly not ready to make a decision yet — whether to require either a vaccination or weekly testing of employees," Rieck said.

Tulsa Planning Office

After months of planning, a steering committee has chosen an alignment for Tulsa’s Route 66 bus rapid transit line.

It will follow 11th Street from downtown to Garnett Road before turning south to take 21st Street to its terminus at Eastgate Metroplex. Five north-south legs to take buses from 11th to 21st street were considered. The committee evaluated them based on multiple data points, including demographics, access to jobs and social services, and existing transit ridership, and Garnett was the clear best option.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit has added its first all-electric buses to the fleet.

The four Proterra ZX5, 40-foot buses unveiled Tuesday were designed and built in the USA.

Proterra Transit Team Senior Director Lauren Cochran Scoville said the environmental benefits of going electric are clear. Each diesel engine–driven bus taken off the road means 230,000 fewer pounds of carbon pollution — and that’s not the only benefit of ditching combustion engines.

Tulsa Transit will have a consultant evaluate what it will take for the agency to implement a mobility as a service model and what other transit agencies across the country are doing.

The idea is giving riders more transportation options to plan their trips so they can easily get from their front door to a destination.

Tulsa Transit

New drivers are taking over Tulsa Transit’s Turley Shuttle starting next month.

After the initial operator, Pelivan, asked for an 18% cost increase for its second year running the north Tulsa service, Tulsa Transit turned to another contractor, First Transit. First Transit said it can run the shuttles on their current schedule of every 30 minutes Monday through Saturday through June 2022 for just under $95,000.

While Tulsa Transit will now have to cover vehicles, fuel and maintenance, the combined cost will still be less than Pelivan’s proposal.

Tulsa Transit

Tulsa Transit is trying to sort out how much of a steep decline in ridership the past fiscal year is due to COVID-19.

According to a survey, 40% of bus riders said their travel needs changed during the pandemic, but 70% expected to be back to their normal routines in a year. That's not bearing out in monthly ridership numbers for FY21, all of which fell below projections and just once topped the same month a year before.

Overall ridership from July 2020 through June 2021 was less than two-thirds what it was the 12 months prior.

Tulsa Transit

The new Tulsa Transit circuit route serving north Tulsa will be free to ride effective Monday and lasting through the end of 2021.

Route 969, or the Workforce Express Network, "was developed to support and increase economic development in the North Tulsa area," the transit agency said in a news release. "Tulsa Transit is offering free fares June 21 through December 31 to help riders understand the route, the areas it serves and how it can help those who are in need of transportation."

Tulsa Transit Studies Bus Access For Homeless

May 3, 2021

Tulsa Transit Authority says they are trying to improve access to public transportation for the homeless.

Staff at Tulsa Transit studied how the bus is working for the homeless by assessing routes from places like shelters and encampments to medical facilities.

Assistant Director for Service Development Chase Phillips said knowing the time spent on a ride was critical to understanding problems. 

Pilot Program Explores On Demand Rides For Public Transit

Apr 28, 2021

On demand rides may soon be part of Tulsa’s public transportation strategy.

 

Steve Wilkes from IBI Group, a consulting company, gave a presentation to the Tulsa Transit Authority Board yesterday. Wilkes suggested an on demand pilot program for Nightline/Sunday Service routes 110 and 401.  

 

Transit Authority Approves Funds for Gathering Place Shuttle

Apr 28, 2021
Gathering Place

  

A Gathering Place shuttle is tentatively set to resume service on Memorial Day weekend. The Tulsa Transit Authority yesterday approved a shuttle contract with First Transit.

 

Naaja Jefferies, Director of Contracted Services, said attendance at The Gathering Place has exceeded expectations since its September 2018 opening.  

 

 

  

"For 2021 there is even less parking available on site. Further, people without access to personal transportation need access to the park," said Jefferies. 

 

A study of Tulsa Transit services in Broken Arrow makes several recommendations to ramp up public transportation in the coming years for a growing community.

Tulsa Transit

Tulsa Transit may split an estimated $250,000 repair bill with Eastgate Metroplex for damage its buses have caused to pavement there.

A system redesign led Tulsa Transit to establish at Eastgate last fall a "sub hub" where three fixed routes converge. The two parties’ agreement does not require Tulsa Transit to pay pavement repair costs, but General Manager Ted Rieck said things will only get busier there when the Route 66 bus rapid transit line launches, so it’s in Tulsa Transit’s best interest to keep a good working relationship.

Tulsa Transit

Tulsa Transit could start the process of repurposing Denver Avenue Station as soon as next month by choosing a firm to help figure out where a new downtown transit hub should go.

The Arena District master plan recommended turning the site into offices, parking and residential units. Tulsa Transit's adminstrative offices may relocate there from the Pearl District, too.

Facebook / Tulsa Transit

All of Tulsa Transit's daytime fixed routes will be free all day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in an effort to make it easier for Tulsans to vote early at ONEOK Field in Tuesday's presidential election.

The move was financially supported by the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa.

"We know that there are reasons that people don't make it to the polls, and we wanted to remove that barrier here," said Lynn Staggs, LWVMT President. "An obvious thing that we came up with was transportation, so anybody who has that in their way, we hope to remove that barrier."

Tulsa Transit

The Tulsa Transit board approved on Tuesday a stricter approach to the agency’s mask policy on buses after several reports of riders wearing them improperly or not wearing them at all.

Starting Monday, drivers may deny boarding to riders without a mask. Bus drivers will have masks to offer to unmasked riders for free, but Tulsa Transit General Manager Ted Rieck said how that will go over is up in the air.

Tulsa Transit

Tulsa Transit has announced a new route aimed at serving Tulsans who rely on bus service for their commutes to and from several major area employers.

The Workforce Express Network, or Route 969, will run a closed-circuit loop connecting North Tulsa and Turley with employers including Whirlpool and the Macy's and Amazon fulfillment centers. Two connecting shuttles will also transport riders to the Port of Catoosa and Tulsa International Airport.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The north Tulsa community of Turley now has a dedicated shuttle to replace fixed-route bus service it lost in November.

The Turley Connector will run every 30 minutes from the Tulsa Health Department to O’Brien Park, connecting residents with those locations, a grocery store and job opportunities.

"Not only is the service going to be much more comprehensive, it’s also going to be free. We’re able to do this through our CARES funding, and we will keep this going as long as we possibly can," said Tulsa Transit General Manager Ted Rieck.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit is moving forward on a job shuttle for the U.S. 169 corridor.

The transit board approved an agenda item for it at a meeting Tuesday.

The shuttle will connect north Tulsa with the area north of I-244, where Amazon recently opened a distribution center and kitchen ventilation manufacturer Greenheck recently opened a plant. Tulsa Transit General Manager Ted Rieck hopes to launch it by mid-September.

Tulsa Police

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum signed an executive order on Thursday putting a curfew in effect for a downtown area covering several blocks around the BOK Center ahead of Saturday’s Trump campaign rally.

No one may be out in the area until 6 a.m. Saturday unless they’re going to or from work or home. The area stretches roughly from Sixth Street to Archer Street and from Houston Avenue to Boulder Avenue. That includes the BOK Center, so people planning to attend the rally cannot legally camp on the sidewalk outside.

Tulsa Transit buses will be free to ride a little while longer.

The transit board on Wednesday approved an extension of the policy through June, though General Manager Ted Rieck will most likely end after the first week of the month.

Rieck said Tulsa Transit buses have perhaps been busier than they should have under the policy.

"We have a lot of people who ride just to joyride, crowding out people who actually need to get somewhere on the buses. So, we believe by charging fares, we’ll control who’s actually riding the bus," Rieck said.

Tulsa Transit plans to change its temporary bus service in Turley.

The area has had limited service from a bus running an altered fixed route since November, when its dedicated route stopped running because Aero bus rapid transit started running the same route. Aero, however, stops short of Turley at 54th Street North.

A new shuttle will run every 30 minutes and reach O’Brien Park.

Tulsa Transit

Tulsa Transit’s share of federal coronavirus relief money is roughly $19.7 million.

General Manager Ted Rieck reported the allocation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act to the transit board this week.

"This is a huge amount of money for us. It’s, like, 82% of our annual budget and three times our normal allocation," Rieck said.

Rieck's priority for the funding is offsetting an expected decrease in funding next fiscal year from the City of Tulsa as it deals with a 13% drop in general revenue.

Tulsa Transit has the green light from Tulsa’s city council to continue offering free fixed-route bus and Lift service rides throughout 2020.

Tulsa Transit implemented the policy last month to limit drivers' contact with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. The transit board will evaluate the policy monthly but will not need council approval for each extension.

Board members had hoped free bus rides would not lead to a sudden increase in ridership at a time people should be staying home as much as possible.

The $2 trillion federal COVID-19 stimulus package includes $25 billion for transit.

General Manager Ted Rieck said that’s good news for Tulsa Transit, as ridership has dropped sharply during the pandemic.

"There are provisions to offset revenue loss, I believe. So, while we still have to evaluate that, there’s reason to be hopeful that we’ll be in decent shape," Rieck said.

Rieck said they’re still figuring out what they might get from the stimulus bill.

Tulsa Transit

On this edition of StudioTulsa, we meet the lead consultant for Tulsa's Mobility Innovation Strategy, which will encompass new ways of getting around the city from Rapid Bus Transit and scooters today, to autonomous and connected vehicles in the near future.  Kelley Coyner is the mobility innovation lead for the consultant firm Stantec, who has experience in government, education, research, and transit systems, and discusses the benefits of city investment in "smart transit," on vehicle and pedestrian safety, efficiency, environmental quality, and economic development.

On this edition of ST, an interesting chat with Tulsa Transit Interim General Manager Debbie Ruggles. In a joint appearance, City of Tulsa and Tulsa Transit officials recently announced a new bus rapid transit line for our community, which will run mainly along Peoria Avenue. It will be known as the Aero system. Service on the Aero -- which will run in rotation from Peoria and 36th Street North to 81st and Lewis -- is expected to start in Spring 2019.

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