Rate hike for Embark Plus postponed after public outcry

OKLAHOMA CITY - A proposed rate hike for Embark Plus riders in zone 2 has been postponed after Oklahoma City residents who use the service opposed it in public meetings.

Embark Plus is the city bus service that gives rides to people with disabilities.

They have 2 zones.

Zone 1 is the bulk of Oklahoma City, and zone 2 is the outskirts, outside of their normal bus routes.

The proposed rate hike would have raised the fare for a one-way trip in zone 2 from $7 to $10.50.

"I don't think they realize how many people and the effects, the depth of this decision," said Susan Pope, an Embark rider in zone 2.

Pope lost her vision to glaucoma a couple ears ago and relies on Embark Plus.

"I don't have access to public transportation. I'm a taxpayer," Pope said.

She said she was devastated when she learned of the proposed rate hike.

"I cried. Seriously. I was, it was somebody cutting your umbilical cord to life and your independence," Pope said.

Greg Brock is also legally blind and relies on the service to pick him up at his home in far south Oklahoma City.

"I don't think I should be penalized at all just, because I live, if you're doing a city surface to come out here to pick me up," Brock said.

Michael Scroggins with Embark said they have to make up for major cuts in funding.

They looked at zone 2 of Embark Plus because those are their most expensive rides.

"And, so, then, that opens up another question about equity, you know, of spreading that cost out over everyone when this is the most expensive service," Scroggins said. "It's not, like I said, an easy thing to identify or an easy choice."

Under federal law, Embark is not required to provide service to zone 2, but they're trying to avoid cutting services.

Pope is retired and living off of social security.

She said she could not afford the higher rate and doesn't know how she would get around.

"I don't know. That's what bothers me the most. I don't know," Pope said.

After the opposition voiced at public meetings, Embark officials decided to postpone the rate hike.

They are putting together a focus group of riders in zone 2 and will have meetings late next month to try and find a solution everyone can live with.

The rate hike might still go into effect, or it could possibly be less.

Nothing is final until it goes before the Embark board and the city council.