Rapid transit arrives in Omaha with launch of ORBT

Nov. 18, 2020
The BRT line began service Nov. 18 and will provide a fast, reliable transit connection along one of Omaha’s most well-traveled corridors.

The Transit Authority of the City of Omaha (Omaha Metro) launched its Omaha Rapid Bus Transit (ORBT) service Nov. 18, which connects riders to and from downtown Omaha on the “game-changing” transport mode.  

From boarding at elevated platforms to real-time bus arrival updates and bus-only lanes, ORBT riders will experience a smooth, efficient and safe journey to and from downtown Omaha. ORBT will run from Westroads to 10th Street, connecting riders to major destinations along Dodge and Douglas Streets. It is the region’s official introduction to bus rapid transit technology and a game-changing step toward a more connected transportation future.

“This is a historic day for the Omaha community,” said Lauren Cencic, Omaha Metro Transit CEO. “ORBT is the most significant Omaha transit investment in decades. We look forward to connecting more people in our community to education, employment and daily activities with this new, safe, efficient transit option.”

ORBT will intersect with almost all existing Omaha Metro routes, increasing efficiency across the system. A free, dedicated Park & Ride lot is available at the Westroads Transit Center, where ORBT connects with other Omaha Metro routes. It is designed to enhance area mobility options, including access to the trail system, proximity to bike share stations and the ability for riders to bring and safely store bicycles on board the bus.

ORBT has fewer stops than most bus routes, allowing for quicker and more efficient travel. West of 30th Street, Transit Signal Priority (TSP) technology is in place at traffic lights and will recognize an oncoming ORBT vehicle and extend a green light. East of 30th Street, bus lanes are dedicated to ORBT, reducing delays downtown.

Planning for the region’s future success is a community priority and ORBT is an example of these efforts. Municipalities, funders, businesses, organizations, institutions and individuals came together to identify, plan for and design this project in response to the need for enhanced public transit options.

“Today marks a new era for transportation in Omaha,” said Jay Lund, chair of Omaha Metro’s Board of Directors. “I’m thrilled Omaha has committed to enhancing transit and am so pleased to have been a part of helping bus rapid transit become a reality. Launching ORBT proves we are a future-focused city that is prepared for our next exciting chapter.”

ORBT, like all Omaha Metro vehicles, is prepared for safe public transit during COVID-19. All riders and drivers are required to wear a face covering, social distancing is encouraged and protective shields separating drivers and riders have been installed. ORBT buses are cleaned and sanitized throughout the day. Bus cabin air is refreshed every five to 14 minutes.

To encourage ridership and celebrate the launch, ORBT rides will be free through March.

Funding for the $37-million project came from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant in the amount of $14.9 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project also received contributions from private entities, including the Peter Kiewit Foundation, The Sherwood Foundation, The Nebraska Environmental Trust and Metropolitan Utilities District. In-kind contributions came from the city of Omaha, Metro Area Planning Agency (MAPA) and Heartland B-cycle. Omaha Metro also contributed other grant funds.

ORBT stations, which feature state-of-the-art technology for those waiting to board, also provide a new opportunity to add vibrancy to neighborhoods along the route. Original, site-painted artwork by 10 local artists – dubbed “Art + ORBT” – is enhancing 12 ORBT stations between UNO and downtown. ORBT partnered with Omaha by Design to incorporate the first public art in their “Art+ Infrastructure” series.

“ORBT is an investment in our neighborhoods, our city and our region. It’s an enormous accomplishment on its own but — beyond that — an important signal about Metro’s vision and commitment to the future,” said Cencic.