Oklahoma City recently received the highest recognition in the U.S. for a public transit system. With numerous improvements over the past several years, EMBARK was just named the “North America’s Outstanding Public Transportation System” by the American Public Transportation Association for systems providing less than 4 million annual passenger trips.
Since 2014, COTPA has rebranded its flagship transit service as EMBARK, realigned routes to improve bus frequency to 30 minutes or less on almost every route, expanded service hours until midnight on four of its most popular routes, upgraded approximately 2,000 bus stops with highly-visible signage, doubled the number of shelters, added real-time arrival information, an online journey planner, and Wi-Fi on every bus, as well as other interactive mobile tools.
“What an incredible privilege this is to be honored by our industry peers. This was only possible because of collaborative relationships between the COTPA Board, the City of Oklahoma City Council; EMBARK employees and those we serve,” says Jason Ferbrache, COTPA administrator. “Oklahomans are used to getting everywhere in our own car; but we are starting to get people out of their cars, getting first time riders to give us a try.”
The system improvements have resulted in tangible results in all of the metrics that matter. For the award evaluation period of fiscal years (FY) 2013 to 2015, EMBARK saw overall ridership increase ten percent with a 13% increase in service hours during that same time. EMBARK provided more than three million fixed-route passenger trips in fiscal year 2015, up 8.8 percent from the previous year. The trend continued and overall ridership has now grown 13 percent since FY 2013.
“Our improvements have increased public confidence and use of our transit system. I am proud of the fortitude of our employees, and the progressive leadership of our Board and City Council,” adds Ferbrache. “We’re not done yet; we’ve set the bar high and are excited about our next steps.”
City leadership is optimistic about continued growth and improvements.
“Oklahoma City has experienced a renaissance over the past 10 years,” says Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. “We quickly realized that our renaissance must be extended to our public transit system. We are creating neighborhoods and districts with distinct personalities, a thriving and diverse business economy and the types of adventures you can’t find in every other city. We must also have a modern transit system to connect it all.