Commuter Rail Service Up For Discussion

Tuesday, April 22nd 2008, 6:45 pm
By: News On 6

There's no way to stop using gasoline.  Or is there?  With gas prices approaching $4 a gallon, drivers might take a second look at mass transit.  The News On 6's Steve Berg reports it just so happens there's a public meeting this week about using existing tracks in Tulsa for a commuter rail system.

INCOG's Patrick Fox says he's heard plenty of arguments against a commuter rail system.

"A, people won't get out of their cars to ride the train, or B, our city is built around automobiles and therefore is not conducive to light rail," said INCOG's Patrick Fox.

But, with $4 and even $5 a gallon for gas being talked about as possible in the near future, a rail system, even for a city like Tulsa, might not be so far-fetched anymore.

"What we know is you don't have to be Boston, or Chicago, or New York, to have successful transit anymore," said INCOG's Patrick Fox.

Even sprawling cities built after the rise of the automobile, like Dallas and Denver, have embraced commuter rail.  Experts from those cities and others will be at a meeting Thursday night at the Jazz Hall of Fame, which coincidentally is in the old Union Train Depot.

They'll talk about all the different forms that a commuter rail system in Tulsa might take.  Fox says there's no formal proposal in place yet, but local funding would be ideal because getting federal funding is notoriously slow.

"If you went through the federal process and you started today.  It would be at least a decade before you had any rails, any people riding on it on a light rail system here in Tulsa.  If you fund it locally, it can happen much faster," said INCOG's Patrick Fox.

Fox says a commuter rail system would be cheaper than people might think because it could use the existing route to the suburbs.

"They all A, follow our existing commuter sheds, which is a really good thing.  That's where you want to place your rail line if you were planning it from scratch anyway.  And second of all, they all radiate from downtown Tulsa," said INCOG's Patrick Fox.

The meeting is at 6 o'clock Thursday night at the Jazz Hall of Fame.