Metro line headed to O!

New buses to offer better rider experience

Justin Diep , Copy Editor

To better serve the transportation needs of people in the Omaha area, a new high-speed bus service will be launching Nov. 18.

The Omaha Rapid Bus Transit (ORBT) will replace Metro’s route two along Dodge and Douglas Streets that connects Downtown Omaha and Westroads Mall.

“After years of study and public input, the bus rapid transit system was identified as a locally preferred transit option,” Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said. “It will connect riders to jobs, schools, medical center, services, businesses and shopping.”

ORBT will launch with free fares to everyone until March 2021.

“We are so excited to launch ORBT this fall and be able to provide our riders with a chance to try the system for free for four months,” Metro chief executive officer Lauren Cencic said. “As we prepare to integrate ORBT into our bus network, we will be providing opportunities to help current and new riders feel comfortable using the system.”

Major improvements to the ORBT system will make the rider’s experience better than the previous old Metro buses the city had. The stops are more spread out, allowing stops as frequent as 10 minutes. Wi-Fi will be available at all bus stations and on-board the buses.

“The idea was let’s upgrade the transit environment there and provide a better transit experience for both our current riders and a way to attract future riders,” Metro community relations manager Jason Rose said. “A lot of ORBT’s elements that you’ll see like the upgraded stations and the bigger buses and the new technology. Those are all intended to make the trip more appealing and a lot faster for riders.”

Studies from 2013-2016 conducted by both Metro and the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency; which is a regional council for the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, showed the Omaha area needed to improve its current system and that Dodge Street was the perfect place.

“We call it the spine of our network,” Rose said. “It’s the backbone of all of our routes right, there’s major destinations, major nodes of activity happening on Dodge Street and it was harder to get to and less appealing to get to.”

As of right now, there are not any official plans drafted to expand the ORBT system, but there are talks of expanding it in order to make it a regional high-speed bus service for the entire Omaha area in the coming years following the launch of the ORBT.

“Ultimately we’re hoping to make a more connected region,” Rose said. “So, we see this first ORBT line as just that as the first line, but then we’re hoping to sort of expand from there with north-south connections east-west extensions to make a bigger regional network of ORBT.”