Today’s Downtown OKC 2020 guest blogger is former Oklahoman collegue Jim Stafford, who is now working with i2e in the Oklahoma Health Center. Jim is your typical Edmond suburbanite who has suddenly found himself bitten with the downtown bug. He says he’s not qualified to comment – I disagree.
I never thought of myself as a downtown kind of guy. I live in far north Oklahoma City with a fashionable Edmond address. I worked up north along the Broadway Extension. Then one day I changed jobs and found myself working as close to downtown as one can get without actually working there – in the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park on the OU Health Center campus.
So now I often venture into downtown to eat lunch and to visit the post office and the offices of friends in Leadership Square. Sports keeps me downtown at night a lot because I enjoy the Redhawks games in Bricktown. My family shares Thunder season tickets with my mother-in- law.
With all that said, I’ve been following the debate over the future of downtown largely through this blog and Steve Lackmeyer’s articles in The Oklahoman. I’m not sure that I have the passion for downtown that Steve is looking for in this, but I will share my point of view on the future of downtown in 2020.
By 2020, there must be light rail service both within downtown and TO downtown from outlying suburban areas such as Edmond and Norman. Once upon a time Oklahoma City had trolleys that went north , south, east and west. I think it’s imperative that we have that again, only this time extend rail into the suburban areas in every direction. And trains need to run from early morning to early morning seven days a week with frequent departures. Oh, and it will have to connect to downtown to the airport, too.
Maybe I have a one-track mind, but I think last year’s gas price run- up proved that we can no longer depend upon automobiles to get us to and from work or to and from shopping and entertainment. Let’s invest in ourselves and ensure that we CAN get to downtown in 2020.
In the past six years I’ve visited six major cities from San Francisco to Atlanta and they all have rail that made it convenient to get into town from the airport — and lots of other places. I didn’t take a cab in any of them. OK, one: San Diego.
I’m intrigued by the city’s Core-to-Shore plans, but know that we need to iron out the future of our intracity transportation first. Let’s hope that I’m not out here alone on an island shouting into the wind and that the rest of Oklahoma City will support a public transportation plan that includes rail as a key factor.