Bus Riding isn’t for the Faint of Heart
The first rule of riding the bus, Silverio Botello said, is to mind your own damn business.
Botello, a 23-year-old local has been riding the bus for over a year.
“My first ride was when I had just moved out here by myself,” he said. “I asked my uncle to drop me off at the station. I was gonna think of where I wanted to go and take off.”
Botello said his trip didn’t go as planned, and navigating the bus was confusing.
“I had a coupon for McDonalds, and I wanted to go to the one on Reno and Classen. I remember just reading the schedules wrong on Google Maps, and freaking out, because I was going in the wrong direction!” he said.
Since then, Botello said he has learned how to use maps more efficiently and how to use the bus stops as a map for transportation. “I was amazed that I could find out what bus to take just by searching for a place, however at the time I think it was a new thing, and it wasn’t at its best.”
Embark is Oklahoma City’s bus provider. Marketing Coordinator Megan White said they hope to make it easier for people to find their bus by implementing a text feature, a journey planner on their website, and various codes at each bus stop.
Botello said riding the bus can at times be funny, or entertaining. “It’s a decent ride, sometimes it’s the bus driver telling people to hurry up, and sit down because we’re late, and some idiot can’t get it through his head that you are not allowed to carry a metal pipe inside the bus.”
Midwest City bus rider Steve Tigert, 60, said his issue with the bus system is the schedules.
“Every other town i’ve been in their metro runs 24/7. It doesn’t in Oklahoma City,” Tigert said. “They don’t run at all on Sunday, and for night shift workers they don’t run past midnight.”
He said the bus system is inconvenient for people who would have to ride the bus late. They will not be able to get rides after midnight. Some will have to catch a ride to church.
White said Embark believes that for now, four routes until midnight have been “extremely successful for ridership growth.”
“We need most of our funding not only to operate, but also to purchase buses, and there’s no one who wouldn’t like to have more services,” she said.
The goal for Embark, White said, is to have more services that last until midnight, and start at 4:30 a.m., but it wouldn’t be around-the-clock.
White said that all city departments were asked to cut their budgets due to the issues with the budget in recent years.
Oklahoma City bus rider Barbara Pitts said shehad no complaints with the bus system.
“I like riding it, I like talking to all of the people, and seeing new people,” Pitts said. “My biggest issue is walking from the bus stop, but really it’s a good way to save money.”
Pitts is one of the few who have hardly any complaints about the public transit system. A 2015 survey indicated that only 22 percent of Oklahoma City residents found the bus system to be satisfactory.
In 2014, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported “Embark serves an estimated 3 million riders annually.”
“Over the last five years we’ve seen an 18 percent increase in total ridership.” Embark wrote, “On average we have more than 11,00 weekday trips, and more than three million trips annually.”
White said since funding has gone down each year, trying to improve the system becomes a matter of finding resources.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health stated that funding is a real issue in public transportation.
“Transit in Oklahoma’s urban areas is definitely underfunded when compared to similar-size cities in our region. Oklahoma City and Tulsa operate on less than one-third the amount of local funding typical for metros of their size according to the National Transit Database.
For Botello, the system’s benefits outweigh its problems.
“It’s nice to enjoy the ride to anywhere without you having to think much sometimes” Botello said. “There are things that happen that are simply out of people’s control such as traffic delaying for people loading, and paying fares.”