Monday, September 11, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments has contracted with a player in developing Salt Lake City, Utah’s mass transit system to plan out the geopolitical structure of a new regional transit authority.
A committee composed of ACOG staff and elected officials who serve on the organization’s board of directors awarded the $420,000 contract in a competitive bid process to Kathryn Holmes, head of Holmes & Associates, Executive Director John Johnson said.
Holmes was the chief negotiator for the Utah Transit Authority about 15 years ago, helping that agency acquire 175 miles of Union Pacific Railroad track and rights of way for conversion to commuter rail. Since then, she has worked as general counsel at Westminster College and partner in a legal practice focusing on passenger rail infrastructure. Holmes described her operation to The Journal Record as small with several subcontractor relationships.
The nonprofit leadership group formed a multi-municipal task force about a year ago to develop a new approach to commuter transit that could ultimately lead to a network of several linked modes, including rail, bus and bicycling. Early discussions included possibilities such as rail near the University of Oklahoma campus and Tinker Air Force Base linked at a hub in Oklahoma City. ACOG invited Edmond, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Del City, Norman and Moore to the table.
“I certainly think that we can define the governance and structure of the organization and where boundaries are going to be,” Johnson said. “This is going to require each of those cities to give up some authority that they normally have 100 percent control of. It’s going to require some rethinking of how we proceed.”
Holmes said she is eager to study the Oklahoma City area at a deeper level to identify unique attributes that will define how a new regional transit authority will evolve.
She and Johnson said Salt Lake City tops their lists of peer regions most appropriate for comparison. Johnson also cited Denver, Colorado, and Phoenix, Arizona, because they’re all heavily automobile-dependent cultures with large land areas to cover, unlike cities in the Northeast.
Holmes cited the San Diego County model because it clearly defines a labor and construction relationship between the metropolitan planning organization and the individual member cities. The Portland, Oregon-based system has a separate streetcar component outside the regional transit authority. Arizona’s member municipalities run their own bus services with rail being managed out of a separate, centralized transit authority, she said.
“That may or may not work for your community, given that you’ve already got three separate systems running of your own,” she said. “We’ll have to find out what your community’s values are and your overarching goals. We might pull ideas from several models to find something that works best.”