City officials on Tuesday proudly unveiled the first of 11 Aero Bus Rapid Transit buses planned to traverse Peoria Avenue, but the system won’t be operational until November, about three months later than originally expected.
Ted Rieck, general manager of Tulsa Transit, said November had always been the target date for the BRT system to come online.
“The city’s contract with Crossland (Construction) for construction of the BRT stations provides for those stations to be completed in November. That’s always been the target timeline,” Rieck said. “We were hoping to expedite things if we could, but because of the process for obtaining right of way for some of the stations, the completion date will still be November.”
At a July 2017 news conference announcing the BRT route, city officials said they expected the bus system to be operating this spring. At a news conference in January to mark the start of construction of the BRT bus stations, city officials said the system would open in late summer.
The City Council recently approved the condemnation of small parcels of land along the route for a few of the BRT stations.
The system will run along Peoria Avenue from 54th Street North to 81st Street South, a route that Tulsa Transit board member James Wagner said connects 1 in 7 Tulsans to 20 percent of the city’s jobs.
“What this bus represents is a connection to opportunity and really connecting people to the kind of education and workforce that we know can move the city forward,” Wagner said at the unveiling.
Wagner said the under-construction stations will also redefine public transportation in Tulsa, describing them as “inviting,” “well-lit” and “well-secured.”
The Aero BRT buses will feature on-board information displays, level boarding, energy-efficient windows, low-emission CNG engines and bicycle racks, among other amenities.
After commenting that buses do indeed also carry a new-car smell, Mayor G.T. Bynum called the unveiling an “exciting step forward” for Tulsa, one of the first 12 cities in the U.S. to implement a BRT system.
The project is about more than “just having quality public transit,” Bynum said.
“What this is about is changing the way Tulsans think about public transit,” Bynum said. “Evolving public transit from being a vehicle that we’ve largely funded historically as a vehicle of last resort for a lot of folks in town to being a vehicle of choice for every Tulsan.”
The Bus Rapid Transit system will provide more frequent and faster service than riders of the city’s traditional bus service have come to expect.
Phil Lakin Jr., a Tulsa city councilor, said the BRT route is meant to bolster the city’s current bus system, which “really suffers right now.”
Lakin said the current system offers about a 45-minute wait between buses, dragging what he said should be quick trips, like grocery shopping, into several hours.
The wait along the BRT route will be approximately 15 to 20 minutes, and the new service will run seven days a week.
The BRT system will include more than 50 standard or constrained bus stops with special branding. The standard bus stations will have more amenities, including larger seating areas and shelters and boarding platforms that are even with the buses’ entrances. Both types of stations will have electronic signs providing real-time information on when buses will arrive.
The city is spending approximately $20 million in Improve Our Tulsa and Vision Tulsa funds to pay for the buses, bus stations and other capital needs.
WPX Energy's 260,000-square-foot tower will be built on the block of property where the old Spaghetti Warehouse was located.