Public transportation services are very important in a metropolitan city of the size and character of Norman. Since taking over the service from the University of Oklahoma in 2019, the newly created Transit and Parking Division of the Public Works Department has overseen, contributed to, or directly accomplished:
- A smooth transition of city bus services without missing a day of service for both fixed-route bus and paratransit service.
- Educating the public for a ballot initiative to enact a Public Transit Sales Tax, which passed with 70.4% approval. This is the first and only voter approved tax for public transit operations in the State of Oklahoma.
- Hiring and working with a consulting firm to develop the Go Norman Transit Plan which assessed both the existing transit bus services as well as the needs and desires of the residents of Norman to recommend service modifications and future improvements. This plan was approved by Council unanimously.
- Completing applications for, and being awarded various federal and state grants for general operations, vehicle replacements, and facility construction.
- Securing funding for, constructing, and opening a City facility to house the transit maintenance and operations activities.
- Overseeing the purchase and construction of replacement vehicles for the fixed-route and paratransit vehicles that have reached the end of their useful life according to FTA standards.
These accomplishments would not be possible without the support from the community, the City Council, and the various organizations that are associated with Norman's Transit and Parking Division.
Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG)
The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the greater Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area. While ACOG is involved in other areas of government as well, part of their responsibilities include coordinating with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), area local governments, and transit providers, such as the City of Norman, to implement the applicable Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
For more information about the ACOG, please visit:
Regional Transportation Authority of Central Oklahoma (RTA)
The Regional Transportation Authority of Central Oklahoma is a trust of central Oklahoma cities, including Norman, that is responsible for developing, implementing, and funding regional mobility options.
For more information about the RTA, please visit:
Oklahoma Transit Association
As an industry based collective of various transit agencies in our state, the Oklahoma Transit Association provides opportunities for networking and continuing education for City of Norman Transit staff.
For more information about the Oklahoma Transit Association, please visit:
History of Transit in Norman
Many Norman residents depend on the public transportation system to get to work, run errands or even go to a doctor’s appointment. However the public transportation system has not always been operated by the City of Norman. From its inception in 1980 public transportation throughout the city was operated by the University of Oklahoma.
Service Transfers to the City of Norman
On August 28, 2018, University officials advised City staff of their desire to transfer non-campus bus services in Norman to another operator by the end of the 2019 fiscal year. In July 2019, the University of Oklahoma transferred portions of the service to the City of Norman. Bus services through and around campus were retained by the University of Oklahoma’s campus shuttle system, formerly known as Cleveland Area Rapid Transit (CART), and the acronym was updated later to Campus Area Rapid Transit (CART).
University of Oklahoma Campus Service (Contact Info)
Campus Area Rapid Transit (CART)
The University of Oklahoma offers campus shuttle services in and around the Norman main campus. For more information regarding campus service, please visit:
Contracting with the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA) d/b/a EMBARK, the City was able to successfully transition the operations of the service without missing a day of service. EMBARK provides operations staff such as bus operators and dispatchers for both the fixed-route and paratransit services, with City staff overseeing the administration of the contract.
Funding for public transportation in Norman is a mix of federal and state grant funding, as well as a local Public Transportation Sales Tax. Grant funding is often sourced through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), and our regional metropolitan planning organization (MPO) the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG). Many of the physical assets purchased for Norman Transit services, such as buildings and vehicles, are paid for by a majority of grant funding. A frequent requirement of such grant funding is that the total cost of the grant proposal be matched with local funds. A typical local fund match is 20-30% of the total cost of the grant proposal.
Public Transit Sales Tax
On Tuesday November 12, 2019 Norman voters passed the Public Transit Sales Tax with 70.4% approval. To date, this is the only funding mechanism solely dedicated to transit operations passed in the state of Oklahoma. The City may only spend money raised from the 1/8 percent sales tax on public transportation systems or public transportation system related costs – such as bus repair and refueling facilities, replacement busses, and improved handicapped accessibility at bus stops.
Planning & Assets
The City of Norman completed its first Comprehensive Transportation Plan in 2014, which considered vehicular, pedestrian, and public transit needs to plan, design, and maintain transportation improvements. These needs changed substantially when the City assumed responsibility for city bus services and the development of a transit specific long range plan was developed in response.
Go Norman Transit Plan
On June 22, 2021 the City of Norman City Council adopted the Go Norman Transit Plan. The Go Norman Transit Plan is a roadmap for optimizing and expanding transit service within the City of Norman, providing detailed and prioritized recommendations for service improvements and expansion. The plan is the outcome of a nearly year-long study that included a comprehensive review of the City of Norman’s existing transit service and numerous community engagement activities. To view the plan, please visit:
Staff have worked consistently to implement the goals of the Go Norman Transit Plan. Some results of that work can be seen in the amount of grant funding awarded to the program, the various vehicles in the process of being manufactured, and the newly opened Transit and Public Safety Maintenance Facility.
One of the actions recommended by the Go Norman Transit Plan is to replace the various vehicles in the public transit fleet which have surpassed or are approaching the end of their useful life. Of the 26 vehicles that were transferred to the City during the transition of service, 15 of them were already eligible to be retired by FTA standards and as of September 2022 an additional seven vehicles have met FTA eligibility to be retired.
Staff have worked diligently to maximize local dollars by seeking and being awarded various federal, state, and regional grant programs for vehicle replacement. Among other grants the City of Norman has been awarded for transit, nearly four million dollars in federal grant funding has been awarded specifically for vehicle replacement in just the first three years that the City has operated the bus transit system. These grants are supplemented by local funding to purchase seven transit buses for the fixed route service as well as five accessible vans for the paratransit service. The first of these replacements, two fully electric transit buses, are expected to be delivered in the fall of 2022. These will be the first fully electric vehicles owned by the City.
In February of 2022, the City of Norman opened a new Transit and Public Safety Maintenance Facility where fleet staff are able to repair and maintain the City’s fleet of transit buses and fire trucks. This facility also provides space for the day to day operations of transit, which allowed the City to end an ongoing lease with the University of Oklahoma for office and maintenance space on campus. The facility was funded through an FTA grant, the Public Transit Sales Tax, and the Public Safety Sales Tax.
Current Planning Actions
Staff are continuing to make progress on the goals of the Go Norman Transit Plan by working on renovation designs for a new City Transit Center and preparing a public participation process to gather feedback from the public regarding proposed route changes to better serve the residents and visitors of Norman.
With City Council's approval, a downtown location was purchased in March of 2022 to be renovated and used as a City Transit Center. While design work is ongoing, staff are hopeful to have the project completed by August of 2023.
Additionally, Council has also approved plans for the Transit and Parking Division to seek public feedback regarding changes to improve the fixed-route service which could be implemented with the opening of the City Transit Center. Staff are currently preparing presentations to explain what the proposed changes are and how these changes could improve service for the community which will be discussed at the public hearings being scheduled for this fall.