By Will Boogert
Riding Tulsa Transit buses is a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation—if you can catch one.
The root of the problem is the amount of time between stops that a bus makes at a given stop. According to timetables on tulsatransit.org, a bus heading towards downtown will stop at 11th and Harvard once every 45 minutes during the week and at intervals of an hour and a half on Saturdays. So if you miss your 7:12 ride to work in the morning, you’ll have to wait until 7:57 for the next bus to come by.
The center of Tulsa’s bus system, the Denver Avenue station downtown, was the first and only stop on our writers’ bus journey through Tulsa. Faced with the decision between going home without seeing Tulsa and waiting hours for a bus, our writers opted to call it a day and not experience any more of Tulsa’s unwieldy transit system.
That is assuming, of course, that the bus comes at all. TU senior Maria Castaneda takes the bus to work regularly. But when she waited for it Friday morning, it never showed up. “Most of the time, the buses are running late based on the schedule that is provided online,” she said. “There are not many routes and normally you have to take an extremely long route to get somewhere that is close if you drive there.” She called it “overall a bad experience, where it takes two hours roughly to get somewhere.”
The writers of this article tried to catch a bus at a stop that was supposed to be at 15th and Evanston on Friday afternoon. We did find a stop there, but it was for a different route going in the opposite direction. After 20 minutes of waiting in the freezing weather for a bus that never came, we decided to give up.
This failure could be chalked up to user error in gathering information from the website, because it was no easy task to find out when and where a bus would be stopping. Many of the website’s links are dead, including the “Scheduler” and the “Tulsa Transit Trip Planner.”
However, there is a live bus tracker that shows the location of every bus in the city (and a mobile app with the same information), and this was the most useful part of the website for us. One can access a PDF with all of the stop times and locations for each route using this tracker.
We also learned that there is a 120-page “Traveler Schedule Book” available online. Additionally, you can purchase your own copy of the guide for only 50 cents on any city bus, given you can first successfully find a bus stop.
On Saturday afternoon, we decided to wait at the 11th and Harvard stop until a bus came. We were pleasantly surprised when one showed up after about ten minutes. After purchasing a day pass, we rode all the way to the main downtown station (located at 4th and Denver).
From there we wanted to catch a bus to the Tulsa Aquarium in Jenks, but the next bus wasn’t coming for another hour. We also realized that once at the Aquarium we would have to be there for exactly an hour and a half or exactly three hours to make the return trip.
We next wanted to see if we could get to Brookside or the Promenade Mall, but we faced a similarly long wait and the odd time constraints created by the long intervals between return trips.
Finally defeated, we caught a bus back up 15th Street and walked from
Harvard home to TU.
However, the bus system is simply not extensive enough to be a reliable or efficient method of transportation. A TU employee, who said that they had been riding the bus for the past 20 years, had a similar critique.
In their experience, Tulsa Transit serves as a “social service provided for the indigent,” members of work release programs and those with suspended driver’s licenses, as opposed to a public good for the average citizen to casually travel around town. They wished the buses came with more frequency, and that there was a more extensive bus service during the night.
In short, the Tulsa Transit bus system is a reliably unreliable transportation choice.