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Written by Rachel Dattolo in the July 2010 Issue

You may have seen the distinct light gray busses roaming around downtown Edmond, proudly proclaiming “Citylink” on each side.

Citylink’s free busses debuted last July as Edmond’s newest—and most affordable—public transit system. They stand out from the crowd among city public transportation systems in its frequently complimented customer service and unbeatable price of: absolutely free.

It’s an attractive option for high school and college students, who are always looking to save a buck. Citylink busses circulate among all the Edmond High Schools, University of Central Oklahoma and past several apartment complexes that are heavily populated with students.

“We’re hopeful this will have a positive impact on some of the parking woes at UCO,” says the transit’s General Manager, Alonda Massey.

According to Massey, the idea was first conceived in a joint decision from the Edmond Public Transportation Committee with support from the City council and the Community Development Manager.

“We wanted reliable, affordable public transportation that met the needs of our diverse community, especially our students and our senior citizen population,” says Mayor Patrice Douglas.

Massey said the free bus transportation may only be helpful to a comparatively small percentage of Edmond residents, but impact on the local economy and the environment can still be quite large, especially if other Oklahoma cities follow suit.

“If every city in Oklahoma contributed a small percentage, our state will have made an impact in the environment, community and economy in a big way,” Massey says. “We will never be like New York City when it comes to public transit but we can definitely contribute.”

The environmental impact could be significant, says Massey. “What would the pollution level look like if every person 21 and over in the State of Oklahoma drove a car everywhere they went? Respiratory diseases would increase, plant life would diminish and our natural habitat would be destroyed before long.”

Showing further insight for the future, city officials ensured that the Citylink busses be CNG (compressed natural gas) convertible – meaning if Edmond ever gets a CNG station, the buses can get on board with being even more environmentally friendly. Compressed natural gas is a cleaner alternative fuel to gasoline.

The new system also created new jobs, providing 11 local residents who were previously unemployed with jobs.

For Edmond residents who don’t own vehicles, public transit remains their primary means of transportation. They may use it to get to and from work or school, to go shopping or to reach a doctor’s appointment.

New ideas catch on fast. According to Mayor Douglas, the amount of people using public transit has grown “exponentially” since the new system was implemented.

Among a host of benefits is the hope that an increase in public transport accessibility will mean fewer cars on the road, leading to fewer traffic accidents. The level of impact, however, Massey says, depends upon the support the transit system receives from the local community. A lot of support could mean a significantly large reduction in traffic congestion, she says.

Citylink is just one of many facets in an overall effort to curb traffic congestion.

Like Edmond, any growing city must face the common problems of outmoded infrastructure and traffic congestion by implementing not just one, but multiple, projects, says the Mayor. In a “multi-faceted approach,” city leaders continue to improve traffic flow with improved roads, synchronized “smart” lights, and accessible sidewalks, in addition to public transit, she adds.

The Citylink Express route to downtown Oklahoma City is the second busiest route, used primarily by those going to and from work, says Massey.

Citylink is run by Edmond Transit Management, a subsidiary of McDonald Transit. It’s funded in part by the profits of local sales tax and federal funding, in addition to funding from the University of Oklahoma.

With four routes in circulation locally and an express service from downtown Edmond to downtown Oklahoma City, Citylink busses run Monday through Saturday (though only some routes run on Saturday) from earlier than 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or later. The busses can also provide transportation for the disabled.

To check out Citylink bus routes and schedules, visit http://edmondok.com/communitydev/citylink.

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