Published: Mon, October 5, 2020 6:13 PM
Updated: Mon, October 5, 2020 8:37 PM
The Oklahoma City Streetcar began service Dec. 14, 2018. [Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]
Streetcar workers say the Oklahoma City Streetcar system is plagued by inadequate security, poor safety measures and lax pandemic precautions.
The shortcomings are the driving force behind an effort to join the union representing Embark transit bus drivers, they say, blaming Embark’s contractor, Herzog Transit Services, for blocking their efforts.
A press release issued Monday by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 993 President Chris Bourke said streetcar operators are dealing with “an increasing wave of hostile homeless passengers” and “still lack proper workplace protections” against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five Herzog streetcar employees have active COVID-19 infections, according to the city’s latest figures. Though streetcar ridership has tumbled in the wake of COVID-19, monthly figures show a gradual rebound since bottoming out in April.
City Manager Craig Freeman sought to reassure the public.
“I believe it is safe to ride the streetcar,” he said late Monday.
The Oklahoma City Streetcar runs daily on a downtown loop and adds service on weekends on a loop through Bricktown. Popularity peaked in June 2019 with 48,100 riders but fell to just 9,900 in June 2020 with the pandemic-related slowdown in downtown events and business.
The streetcar is expected to play an integral part, along with the new Omni luxury hotel, MAPS 3 convention center and downtown park, in showcasing Oklahoma City’s renaissance to visitors in coming years.