I picked up the Oklahoma City
streetcar from the stop across from my hotel.
There are two routes in the city – one that runs around the downtown
area and another shorter loop that goes from the convention center development
area back to Bricktown. The car I got
was on the Bricktown Loop and, since I wanted to do the full run, I hopped off
at the next stop and waited for the next car.
I got on board along with a guy that
had come to check it out despite his skepticism. He ended up meeting a few people he knew and
seemed pretty impressed by the whole thing.
The vehicles have a battery system on board which allows them to run for
periods without overhead wires. This is
particularly helpful where the line runs under the main railroad. The bridges there are too low to allow for
overhead wires so the system involves periods on battery and periods on wire
when the batteries can be recharged,
Lots of people were out making use of the
free introductory period. Given that it
was a Friday, this was a good indication.
Hopefully the system will prove to be a success. It is part of a number of measures that the
city is implementing to improve the live ability of the area. I wish them well.
I used to make regular trips to
Oklahoma City for a streetcar project I was working on. I ended up having to pick up another project
which meant I dropped the streetcar project when the vehicle contract had been
approved and signed and my colleague took on the delivery phase. However, I promised I would be back for the
grand opening. Mid December was the time
when the system was opened up.
Fortunately, I was already within
three hours of OKC for another project so I drove up for the celebrations. The project team had a dinner the night
before which was a great chance to get back together with some old faces. The opening was on the following
morning. We had an early photo session
with project team members at 7:30 on a chilly Friday. The main opening ceremony started at
10:00. It was still pretty cold but
plenty of people had shown up for the evening.
Speeches from those involved and then it was time for the first rides.
I skipped the initial runs and instead
went to have a look at the maintenance facility that had been constructed as
part of the project. It was a nice job
that had been put together by all involved.
After checking it all out, I parted ways with my old colleagues. Before heading home, it was time to ride the
full route. That will be another post.
We were wandering around down by Lake Union checking out the sights of the city. When it was time to head back, the easiest thing for us to do was to grab the streetcar that runs back up to Westlake. This is a relatively new addition to the city and they are expanding their streetcar system at the same time as Sound Transit expands the light rail system.
It did remind me of a previous trip we had to Seattle quite a few years ago. At that time, there was a vintage streetcar that ran along the waterfront. We had stayed down there on that trip and the streetcar tracks ran right outside the hotel. During the course of some redevelopment activity, the barn where the cars were stored and maintained found itself in the way and it was demolished. The system went away and clearly has not returned.
The tracks are still along the right of way but obviously aren’t used anymore. I thought it was interesting to contrast the old style of a streetcar with the modern vehicle that is appearing in cities all across the US today. The return of streetcars are gaining momentum all across the country.