Streetcars Benefits on OKC Culture
The new streetcar system in Oklahoma City that is scheduled to debut in December is going to mean getting used to a lot of things, not the least of which is sharing the roadway with these giant, futuristic people movers. As a downtown worker, I’ll have a new and easier trek to our Tuesday Rotary meeting. And, my daily drive into the Central Business District will once again become boring, as I will be able to take the same route to the office day after day.
On any other day of the week, my dining options will expand greatly. When you use a parking garage downtown, you aren’t too inclined to walk to your car, wind your way to the street, and drive even a half mile to lunch. So, we tend to dine within a few blocks of the office on most days. The streetcar changes that. Working on Park Avenue, Bricktown is just outside of walking distance when the weather isn’t perfect. Midtown is a bit too far in a suit and tie, even on the best day. That’s about to change. What has become routine lunch will turn into a culinary exploration for me.
A larger benefit to the new streetcars is the opportunity to meet more of my neighbors. I have already challenged myself to keep my head out of my phone when I move around downtown. My hope is that the lunchtime crowd packs the cars and we are all forced to at least acknowledge each other, if only to avoid physical contact. But, imagine if we use these vessels to not only explore places, but people as well. Different people. Not everyone in the area is a Chamber of Commerce going, Rotary/Lions/Kiwanis, white collared civic person, but that’s who I always seem to be around. Every life story is fascinating and I look forward to hearing a few new ones. It will take some effort on my part to get out of my comfort zone and sit next to the lady in the abaya instead of the man in Cole Haans. It doesn’t matter if Oklahoma City is becoming more diverse if we don’t experience that diversity firsthand.
I enjoy using public transportation when I am traveling. There was a time when it was the most convenient option, especially when traveling from an airport into the city. Swaying side to side on the ‘L’ in Chicago while observing business people, students, domestic helpers, and who knows what, go about their days. Pensively listening to the voice coming through the overhead speaker so that I won’t miss my stop. Or boarding the MARTA in Atlanta, contemplating the lives of those who board and the destinations of those disembarking and disappearing into their neighborhoods. It’s a wonderland for the mind.
There are many intrinsic benefits to the streetcars, but the largest of them doesn’t involve getting from one place to the next. I hope that we use this opportunity to gain understanding and tolerance, which will help us to truly grow into a big league city.