A new city bus route that extends service northward will improve north Tulsans’ access to jobs along the U.S. 169 corridor, officials say, while also helping spur economic growth on the north side of the city.
“Along with creating jobs, it is important to create physical access to those jobs for the people who need them. Areas of the city with the lowest employment rates also have the lowest rates of vehicle access,” said Mayor G.T. Bynum, who joined state and local officials Tuesday, Oct. 13 for the announcement of Tulsa Transit’s new Route 969.
The news conference was held outside the Macy’s Fulfillment Center in Owasso, one of several large area employers, including Green Heck, Amazon, John Zink and Whirlpool, that will now be more accessible for workers who need transportation.
The new service, a partnership between Tulsa Transit and rural provider Pelivan Transit, will be free for Tulsa-area employees through Dec. 31, officials said. The normal fare of $1.75 will begin on Jan. 1, 2021.
In addition to the fixed bus route, two shuttles on the route will serve the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and Tulsa International Airport.
The service will cost $350,000 a year to operate, officials said. But it’s federally funded, so no local tax dollars are being used.
Tulsa Transit General Manager Ted Rieck said planning for the new service began about a year ago.
“We started working with the cities of Tulsa and Owasso to address a shortage of workers in this particular area,” he said. “We did some survey work. We met with the employers and other stakeholders. Today’s service is a result of that effort.”
State Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, said the new route acknowledges the important role public transit plays in economic development.
“This service will take workers from a low employment area to an area with a higher employment rate to match people with job opportunities,” said Bush, who was author of HB1365, which mandated the Oklahoma Pubic Transit Policy Plan.
She added that when Route 969 reaches its projected ridership of around 100 workers, north Tulsa will see a $21 million economic impact.
“This joint project between Tulsa Transit and Pelivan Transit is the perfect example of how rural and urban transit systems should work together for the economic benefit of our cities and our communities,” she said.
With employers that have been recruited recently and other projects announced or underway, the economic picture for north Tulsa is finally changing, Bynum said.
“We’ve really spent several years now at the city of Tulsa trying to address the longstanding issue — that historically, north Tulsa did not have an equal seat at the table when it came to economic development. It was overlooked for decades,” the mayor said.
“But what we see now is that north Tulsa is becoming the job-creation engine for the city of Tulsa.”
Joi McCondichie, a northside resident and community advocate, attended the news conference, and said afterward the new route is welcome news.
“We were ecstatic when we found out,” she said. “Before we haven’t had the connection to these jobs. We can’t get here because we don’t have the cars we need.”
“This is the opportunity north Tulsa has been waiting for,” she said, adding that she plans to spread the word.
Rieck added that Tulsa Transit officials believe the new service “can change the lives of north Tulsa residents by providing access to good jobs, as well as make metro Tulsa a destination of choice for businesses.”
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