January 17, 2021


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A new ORBT bus heads west on Dodge Street during testing on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020.

Forward-looking communities build toward their future through smart planning. Omaha’s new rapid bus line, which begins service Wednesday, provides a key example.

ORBT — Omaha Rapid Bus Transit — is notable in several ways. It responds to local demand for public transportation innovation. It uses technology to achieve efficiency and consumer convenience. It demonstrates Omaha’s ability to coordinate complex new civic projects. And it opens the way toward eventual expansion to additional parts of the city, to better park-and-ride stops and to Council Bluffs.

“This is really about thinking about the future, what we’re going to become and where we’re headed,” says Stephen Osberg, director of transportation development for the Greater Omaha Chamber, which is developing a regional transport strategy for the metro area.

ORBT buses will run between downtown and Westroads Mall, using a technology to hold a green light longer, with a dedicated lane east of 30th Street. A rapid transit bus will arrive at about 10-minute intervals, and a full ride along the 27-stop route will take around 26 minutes.

The stations will have Wi-Fi and ticket kiosks. Buses will provide Wi-Fi and onboard bike racks. A raised platform, train station-style, will ease riders’ entry and exit. It’s a smart, efficient approach that’s worked well in cities including Cleveland; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Eugene, Oregon.

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