One of the places pedestrians sometimes go in Oklahoma City is the bus stop. So, we’re going to diverge somewhat from our theme of walking to discuss an upcoming change in the bus system. And this really does involve walking.
For a couple of years now, Embark has been implementing changes, one of which is that the buses will only pick up and drop off at designated stops; that is, locations where there is an Embark sign. The announced “big day” is July 1, 2016. Starting on that day, buses will only stop at official Embark stops. This would be somewhat different form the old days when any bus would stop at any bench, covered stop, or far corner of any intersection. Embark has placed signs all over town at the various designated stops, and generally, the sign includes the number of the bus serving that area. Of course, most stops are only served by one bus route.
The Health Science Center is an exception. Due to the large number of passengers needing to travel to and from the may health facilities there, the area is served by a number of different bus routes.
Routes #2 and #3 have served that area for years, traveling east and west on N. E. 13th. The Crosstown #23 also swoops by, turning south from N.E. 23rd on Lincoln, traveling east on N. E. 13th to Kelly, then turning north, before heading back to the west on N.E. 23rd. The Norman Express #24 also drops in during rush hour as well as the Edmond Express #38.
So, let’s talk about bus stops. On N.E. 13th, just east of Phillips Avenue (north side of OU Childrens’ Hospital), is a stop. It is not a covered stop; indeed, it doesn’t even have a bench, but it does have a sign. The sign says the stop is served by the #23 and #24, although at present, the #2 and #3 pick up and drop off there. Further down the street (almost at Kelly), where Childrens’ Hospital used to be, (a building named Garrison Tower), is a covered stop. The sign at this location says the stop is served by the #2 and #3, although the #23 stops there regularly. In fact, at 4:30 p.m., the drivers change shifts on the #23 at Garrison Tower.
So, what is involved if riders on the #23 can only board or get off the bus at the Childrens’ Hospital stop (Stop ID 201) rather than also stopping at Garrison Tower (Stop ID #178)? What’s the problem if a mom and kids (perhaps one in a stroller) must get off or board the #2 or #3 at Garrison Tower rather than directly north of Childrens’ Hospital?
We need to look at the geography of the area. Since the stop at Childrens’ Hospital (ID 201) has no shelter or seating, this could be a little difficult for a parent with sick children waiting for the #23 in the rain, or for a veteran who has just visited Veterans’ Hospital. The mom and kids, or the veteran, could have taken the skywalk to Garrison Tower and stepped outside to the covered stop. Likewise, a veteran who is seeking care at the VA Hospital would have to walk extra distance if he/she traveled to the area on the #23 in order to reach his/her destination.
The extra distance would also be a problem for parents and children traveling on the #2 or #3 to Childrens’ Hospital. In the past, it was possible for an Embark patron to get off the bus at Garrison Tower, go inside, and take the skywalk to Childrens’ Hospital, or Veterans’ Hospital for that matter, but in the last few months, Garrison Tower has been locked for improved security. Now it is not possible to enter the building from N.E. 13th street without a security badge.
For these reasons, Embark really must add #23 (and possibly #24) to the Garrison Tower stop (ID 178) and #2 and #3 to the Childrens’ Hospital stop (ID 201). It’s the least they can do.