Growth and Improvements Bring National Attention
Oklahoma City -- 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% 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.”
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EMBARK is the business unit of the Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority (COTPA) – a public trust administered by the City of Oklahoma City. EMBARK is responsible for providing safe, efficient and convenient public transportation and downtown parking solutions to the greater Oklahoma City area.
COTPA is celebrating 50 years of leadership in providing public transit and downtown parking services to Oklahoma’s capital city.
About the Award
The award is considered the most distinguished of all public transportation honors. It is bestowed upon North American public transportation systems that have demonstrated outstanding achievements in the last three years. There are three awards based on the size of the transit system. EMBARK won in the small-size category, for systems providing less than 4 million annual passenger trips.
Systems are judged on safety, operations, maintenance, access, customer service, financial management, sustainability, workforce development, attendance and employee costs, minority and women advancement, marketing, and community relations. Systems must also submit quantitative data including riders per hour and total passenger miles.