Oklahoma City's new Streetcar system could provide the city's first Sunday service for mass transit. (James Cooper)

The City of Oklahoma City’s bus system does not operate on Sundays. If we are not forward-thinking and responsible, our city’s new MAPS 3 Streetcar will not provide seven-day-a-week service, either.

OKC needs Sunday bus and streetcar service, because our world doesn’t stop on Sundays. Our city is alive on Sundays. Workers work on Sundays, churchgoers go to church. People go to places and events. They eat at restaurants and shop in stores. They relax with family and friends. They buy groceries.

This June, OKC’s city council votes whether to make this vital service a reality. We’ll have a historic opportunity to finally provide reliable, seven-day-a-week public transportation to our residents.

Now’s the time to contact each city council member. Before they take this vote, let our council know Sunday service matters, especially for families who share one vehicle or those without reliable transportation.

Sunday service on our buses and streetcars is critical to continuing our city’s recent revitalization efforts, to bringing back to life our historic inner-city neighborhoods.

For people who work downtown, for instance, providing Sunday streetcar and bus service is crucial, particularly for workers with low-wage jobs in our service industry (think hotel and restaurant). When these workers miss a shift, they could lose a job, simply because they don’t have dependable transportation. If our council votes to include Sunday service in our budget, these workers will have a reliable way to work, with or without a car.

That was then …

When we built this city – and, through the Great Depression – most residents didn’t have a car and couldn’t afford one. Early real estate developers designed our inner-city neighborhoods so workers could work downtown, take a trolley home and live in walkable communities.

My neighborhood, the Paseo, is an example, our first commercial district outside of downtown. Its architect, G.A. Nichols, designed Paseo in 1929 so residents could leave their home, walk safely to nearby stores, have access to basic needs and, when necessary, take the trolley downtown or to other places around our city.

We have streets named after Anton Classen and John Shartel, two of OKC’s founding fathers, who built privately-owned streetcars connecting residents along present-day Classen Avenue from downtown to what was once an amusement park, to what is now shopping and Penn Square Mall.

We lost our way after World War II when too many decision makers tore up rail tracks and, eventually, stopped providing adequate funding to our city’s bus system. Before long, we didn’t provide evening bus service. Then, we stopped Sunday service. Too many believed we’d always all want automobiles.

… this is now

Oklahoma City’s new Streetcar system is a $131 million project financed as part of MAPS 3. (James Cooper)

Today, millennials – my generation, the generation born between 1980 and 2000 – prefer public transportation, especially when we decide where to live, work and raise a family. We want neighborhoods where we can walk, bike and take public transit to wherever we need to go.

Baby Boomers prefer to age in place, we’ve learned: to stay in their neighborhoods and houses as they grow older rather than live in a nursing home. Reliable public transportation allows seniors this opportunity to age in place with dignity, to have dependable access to doctor appointments, pharmacies and grocery stores.

Let’s build on recent successes

With Sunday service a possibility this June and with MAPS 3 Streetcars operating this December, our city has a chance to learn from past successes and mistakes. We have an opportunity to reconnect our neighborhoods to the recent renaissance of downtown, Midtown and Bricktown.

In recent years, our city’s bus system, Embark, added night service til midnight on four routes, with a new night route to serve our northeast side coming this summer. We’ve added WiFi service, converted many of our buses to CNG and upgraded bus stops. As a COTPA trustee providing oversight for Embark for the past three years, I’ve been honored to be a part of these changes. I’m excited by local public support for public transportation.

Now’s the time to build on those successes, to remind our city council why public transportation is so important. Let’s make sure our city makes Sunday bus and streetcar service a priority again.

James Cooper is former president of Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and an adjunct film studies professor at Oklahoma City University. He teaches middle school and serves currently on OCU's arts and sciences advisory board. He also serves as a trustee for COTPA, OKC’s Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority.