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Officials: Dedicated tax needed for OKlahoma City's public transportation system

Officials: Dedicated tax needed for OKlahoma City's public transportation system

By Brian Kimball, Newsok

A major roadblock to improving the Oklahoma City area’s public transportation system is the lack of sustainable funding. That topic dominated Tuesday’s meeting of the Oklahoma Alliance for Public Transportation.

Larry Hopper, interim chairman of the nonprofit group, said supporters hope public transit will be included in a MAPS3 initiative. In addition, a better transit system would require sustainable and renewable funding, he said.

"Our region needs to pass some kind of dedicated tax that helps underwrite the cost of (public) transportation,” he said.

He suggested a half-cent or 1-cent sales tax or a countywide gasoline tax as possible fund generators.

Other options also were discussed. A downtown streetcar, which could include wireless Internet, and a rail system were the main ideas. But each mode of public transportation has a common need — sustainable funding.

The current system "is designed for short commutes for people that are trying to get to a very specific place in quantities. It’s not efficient at all,” said Jeff Bezdek, campaign director for a public-transit advocacy group, the Modern Transit Project. "Right now, the system is not stitched together with anything, with the exception of the bus transfer center.”

If the cities surrounding Oklahoma City would chip in with some sort of sales tax, that would be the best option for getting the transit system to reach the most people while also getting the most funding, Hopper said.

"At some point, local voters are going to need to be made more aware of the need for better operating funding,” Hopper said.

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