By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Richard Beale was standing on the streetcar platform in front of the Cox Convention Center with his grandson on a Sunday afternoon. Both were sporting colorful Oklahoma City Thunder shirts as they waited.
Beale was waiting on the Oklahoma City Streetcar so he could take his grandson for a ride two hours before tipoff. It was Beale’s second time on a streetcar on game day. The first was on Dec. 15, the day after the streetcar system began hauling passengers, and it didn’t go so well.
“It was a disaster,” Beale said. “There were too many people trying to ride the train and there was a lot of traffic downtown for a lot of events and it was just difficult, really, to do it.”
Despite that, Beale and many other Thunder fans have found themselves curious about how to best use the streetcar, especially on game days. They know it can be useful but just haven’t figured out exactly how, yet.
“I think it’ll get easier,” said Beale, who lives in Oklahoma City. “But I think people will use it. Some people will park up Midtown, go to dinner, something like that, and then take it down here to go to events and things. It takes a while for people to figure out how to use it.”
The Oklahoma City Streetcar made its grand opening on Dec. 14. Since then, the Thunder has had 12 home games.
“We definitely see an increase in ridership when the service is paired with Thunder games,” Embark transit service’s Michael Scroggins said.
Jerry and Sandy Little of Moore used the streetcar for the first time when they went to the Thunder game against the Bucks. But it wasn’t out of need; rather, it was just for the experience.
“Oh, we loved it. It was very nice, very smooth,” Sandy Little said. “Everybody was very nice on the train. It was just such a nice day to come and do it. We rode one in San Francisco; I loved it, so I love having it here.”
Pamala and James Lambert of Kingfisher also said they enjoyed the experience of riding on the streetcar for the first time. But they were also doing some scouting for future game days.
“Now we know where to park, we know where it’s going to stop, we know where all we can eat that we normally wouldn’t get to eat,” Pamala Lambert said. “We know one route’s short, one route’s longer. It’s awesome. We know exactly what to do now.”
Scroggins said people need to just find the best ways to make the best use of the streetcar service. That includes dealing with parking around downtown on game nights.
“What are they doing before or afterward? Staying after the game or coming early enough before the game. They didn’t want to have to park multiple times,” Scroggins said. “Now you can just park once, use the streetcar to get all around, and then get front-door service.”
For more than a month-and-a-half, the streetcar service was free as officials encouraged people to just jump on and learn how best to use public transportation. Starting this month, people will now be required to purchase tickets to ride the streetcars.
“We definitely expect that we’re going to see ridership dip initially,” Scroggins said.
Regardless, the streetcar has seemed to have had an effect on Thunder fans.
“It’ll probably take a little bit to get used to, but I think it’s, for us, just kind of fun,” James Lambert said.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider
Article first appeared in The Journal Record