Better to Walk? OKC Streetcar Questions Answered!

It’s February and the Oklahoma City Streetcar is now in its first month where you have to pay to ride. Whether you’re visiting or an OKC local, you may be wondering exactly how to use the streetcar and if it’s really that practical. If so, this post is for you!

I’ve used mass transit (buses, trams, trains, etc.) in cities around the world and am a big supporter of public transportation. While the OKC streetcar system doesn’t cover a large area at this point, it still has its use in our community. Let’s explore it!

What’s the Oklahoma City streetcar route?

OKC streetcar map of routes
OKC Streetcar Route Map (From the OKC Streetcar official website)

There are two loops. The 4.8 mile Downtown loops runs 7 days a week and covers the most ground from Midtown to Downtown and over to Bricktown. The 2 mile Bricktown loop only covers Bricktown and part of Downtown and runs on Fridays and Saturdays, likely to help with the busiest part of town on the weekends.

What are the OKC streetcar hours?

Downtown Loop:

  • Monday-Thursday, 6AM-Midnight
  • Friday, 6AM-2AM
  • Saturday, 7AM-2AM

Bricktown Loop:

  • Friday and Saturday, 7AM-2AM

Currently the streetcar will run on Sundays from 11AM-7PM. Starting April 7, 2019, the streetcars will do a full service on Sundays from 7AM-10PM.

How much does it cost to ride?

$1        Single fare (you get on and off once)

$3        24-hr Day Pass

$32     Monthly Pass

$384   Annual Pass

Not that expensive, all considering. But in addition to that, kids ages 7-17, senior citizens over 65, Medicare card holders, and people with disabilities always ride half off. Children 6 and under are free!

If you have a fixed-route bus pass, you can use it on the Streetcar, as well.

If you use the app to buy a ticket in February, your first purchase will be half off! For some reason, I had thought that would only apply to single fare, but it actually applies to all of their passes. So if you live downtown, for example, this would be a great time to get a monthly pass for only $16!

There are two ways to buy tickets.

  1. Ticket vending machine:
OKC streetcar ticket machine
OKC streetcar ticket machines are available at every stop.

Each stop has a ticket machine that you can use to buy your tickets. It will take credit card, small bill, and cash. Be sure to have exact change; it won’t give you change.

2. Mobile App:

phone displaying a streetcar pass purchased with the Token Transit app.
Buy your tickets with your phone using the Token Transit app.

I first got the Embark app, thinking that I could buy my fare with it. The Embark app is currently better for riding the bus; it hasn’t really been updated for the streetcar very much.  When I tried to buy my fare, I was redirected to get a different app, Token Transit. So if you are just planning to ride the streetcar, I’d recommend just getting that one.

Getting a fare on the Token Transit app is quite straightforward, after downloading the app:

  • Put your phone number in; you’ll be sent a code to verify your number.
  • Select Embark from the list of agencies.
  • Select rider type (i.e. senior adult, adult, etc.), streetcar, and fare type.
  • Give your credit card info.
  • At this point, your pass is saved. Tap on it to activate when you actually use it.
interior of streetcar with display showing Automobile Alley as next stop
A digital display shows the next stop on the streetcar. The OKC streetcars go through several of OKC’s unique and quirky districts, including Automobile Alley.

Is it helpful to use the Streetcar if I’m visiting OKC?

Absolutely! I think it’s a great way to get a feel for the city, even if you just want to ride and see the sights. The streetcar goes through Bricktown, Automobile Alley, Downtown, and Midtown, some of OKC’s many unique districts.  I have lived here a long time and I learned new things about my city on the ride!

Walk through the Myriad Gardens, catch a show at the Civic Center, see a NBA or minor league baseball game, visit the OKC Art Museum, OKC Bombing Memorial Museum, and the American Banjo Museum, stroll by the canal in Bricktown, or eat at a trendy restaurant in Midtown like nonesuch, America’s #1 New Restaurant in 2018 according to Bon Appetit. All of these places and more are near stops on the streetcar.

If you don’t have a car and want to use the OKC streetcar as your main form of transportation, I’d recommend the $3 day pass.

interior of streetcar showing rails to hold on to

Would it just be faster to walk?

This is the question I’ve heard most from friends and family living here in the OKC area. Since it covers a relatively small area, we’ve wondered if it’s really that helpful.

There are obviously a lot of variables in answering this question, depending on the amount of traffic and where you’re needing to go.

But just as one example, assume you wanted to eat at McNellie’s Irish Pub in Midtown and then go to the Chesapeake Arena for a Thunder game.  GoogleMaps says walking will take 28 minutes (and walking with GoogleMaps is usually at a nice clip).  This estimate is only accurate if you can walk 1.6 miles, including stopping before crossing intersections, etc., in 28 minutes.

Or you can get on the streetcar at the Dewey stop right next to McNellie’s and go to the Arena stop.  Because of this particular route, the streetcar will likely take at least 30 minutes, especially considering traffic. (I tried it on a day with little traffic and it took 20 minutes.)

If you get off at the Century Center stop, instead of the Arena, and walk the 2.5 minutes through the Cox Center to the Chesapeake Arena, you can easily shave off at least another 10 minutes from the trip, because the streetcar goes through Bricktown after that stop and that is where the traffic is usually the worst.

In that last scenario, taking the streetcar is still faster than walking the whole way. The ride back from the Arena stop to McNellie’s (Dewey stop) took 25 minutes on a day with not much traffic, though, so I’d expect it to take longer.

Do consider wait time for the car to come. I would recommend checking the estimated time of arrival of the streetcar on the website before heading to the stop. The cars tend to be about 10-15 minutes apart.

(Interesting note – according to the OKC Streetcar website, the streetcar does get some form of preference at traffic lights at 15 intersections on the route! Green lights should help the speed, though they have to obey all the other traffic rules.)

Truth be told, most of us Oklahomans wouldn’t usually consider walking from Midtown anyway; we’d just drive. But on a busy night, it would be great to not have to get into the thick of traffic and pay for parking. (The $2 for a round-trip on the streetcar is quite nice compared to $10 in a lot!)

In contrast, if you parked in Bricktown, you could likely walk to your car in about the 15 minutes it would take to wait for the Streetcar, especially if traffic is bad.

But there are other circumstances where it could be quite handy. Consider these scenarios…

  • runners who want to get back to their cars after the Memorial Marathon. Certainly nice to not walk yet another mile!
  • When it’s freezing cold outside. My friends and I have appreciated the warmth of the streetcar when traveling around downtown OKC.
  • For the elderly or handicapped. The Streetcar is ADA handicap-accessible.
  • For those who live downtown, who don’t want to be out walking much late at night.
  • For families with young children who don’t want to walk that far.

How often do streetcars come? What is their schedule?

Approximately every 10-15 minutes, though it depends on the particular stop. Check here for the estimated times of arrival. Each stop also has a screen displaying estimated arrival times.

Where should I park to get on?

            The Greater OKC Chamber has a great post on their blog about parking places nearby. They include places to park for free!

How long does it take to ride the whole loop?

            It took me 45 minutes to do the whole loop on a day with not much traffic. A single fare will allow you to ride the whole loop only once. Fair enough!

yellow door button that you push to stop or open the doors.
Push the yellow button to open the doors or request a stop on an OKC streetcar.

I don’t have much experience with public transportation. How does riding the Streetcar work?

  1. After purchasing your ticket, wait at the stop. Make sure you’re visible to the streetcar. Just like buses, they won’t always stop, if they don’t know you’re waiting for them.
  2. If the doors don’t automatically open when the streetcar stops, press the yellow door button.
  3. You don’t have to swipe your ticket or anything. Just make sure your mobile ticket is activated or your physical ticket is handy.  There will be officials who come through the Streetcar to check tickets from time to time.
  4. After boarding, it’s easy to keep track of where you are. The stops are listed in order on placards posted on the Streetcar and there are verbal and digital sign announcements of each upcoming stop.
  5. When you’ve passed the stop right before the one you want to disembark at, press the blue stop button or the yellow door button. This will alert the driver that you want to get off at the next stop. (Important: The streetcar doesn’t automatically stop at every stop.)
  6. If the doors don’t open on their own at your stop, just press the yellow door button again.
blue button on streetcar that you push to request your stop
Push this blue button to request your stop.

What else would be helpful to know before I ride the OKC streetcar?

            The streetcars only go one direction, so check the route map carefully before you get on, so that you don’t end up with a long ride the wrong way! As you can see on the route map above, you can often get off and walk 2-3 minutes to go the other direction. But if you paid for a single fare, then you’ll have to pay again.

The colors of the streetcars don’t correspond at all to particular routes. The red, blue, and green colors were inspired by Oklahoma’s redbud trees, blue sky, and green grass. Nothing to do with the red and blue loops!

Happy riding!

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