By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City’s public transit system, EMBARK, recently implemented major upgrades to the Spokies bike share system. Fifty new Trek bikes have been added to the fleet, which is now part of the national BCycle network.
In a joint effort, the Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority (COTPA), the City of Oklahoma City, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, and the Federal Transportation Administration have funded the $304,000 upgrade.
A press release from EMBARK states that several bike upgrades have been added such as new, easier to adjust bike seats to accommodate people of different heights; front and rear hand brakes; splash guards for a cleaner ride; and the 3-speeds to make navigating hills easier.
In addition, several new bike features have been added that will help Spokies manage maintenance and operations. All bikes are GPS enabled, which helps track the bike’s location; have puncture-resistant tires; are specific to bike share programs; and outdoor storage, making the bikes more durable.
Using GPS, Spokies’ pass holders can locate available bikes from a mobile device and track calories burned and miles traveled during each ride.
“Spokies is an important part of our multimodal transit network,” says Jason Ferbrache, EMBARK Administrator. “This upgrade is an investment in providing a reliable and active transit alternative.
“Someone who takes a bus or parks their car in the downtown area can use Spokies to get to their final destination,” Ferbrache continued. “The new bikes, stations and pricing structure will make that faster and easier.”
Price structure updates now allow bikes to be checked out at any of the eight stations in the downtown area for $2.50 per half hour. A monthly pass is $9.95, and an annual pass is $70. Pass holders receive unlimited 60-minute trips.
During ozone alert season, 30-minute rides are free on the third Friday of the month. Upcoming dates are September 16 and October 21.
EMBARK’s bike share program is serviced by Bicycle Transit Systems, with bikes and stations provided by BCycle, part of Trek Bicycles of Wisconsin. These companies have launched and/or operate more than 40 bike share systems in metropolitan areas in the United States and abroad.
Spokies monthly or annual pass holders can access the bike share program when they travel to any of those 40 metro areas, with only usage fees for longer rides.
Recently EMBARK (formerly Metro Transit) was named “North America’s Outs anding Public Transportation System” by the American Public Transportation Association for systems providing less than 4 million annual passenger trips. This is the highest recognition in the United States for a public transit system
Since 2014, COPTA rebranded Metro Transit as EMBARK by implementing numerous system improvements, which produced results leading up to this award.
Improvements have included reconfiguring routes making buses available in 30 minutes or less on almost every route, service hours were expanded until midnight on four of its most popular routes, upgrading approximately 2,000 bus stops with highly-visible signage, doubling the number of shelters, adding real-time arrival information, an online journey planner, and Wi-Fi on every bus, along with other interactive mobile tools.
“What an incredible privilege this is to be honored by our industry peers,” said Ferbrache. “This was only possible because of collaborative relationships between the COTPA Board, the City of Oklahoma City Council; EMBARK employees and those we serve.
“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,” Ferbrache added. “We’re not done yet; we’ve set the bar high and are excited about our next steps.”