Making positive change can require complications during the transition. Temporary lane closures are necessary in stretches on Dodge Street as crews install the stations for Omaha’s first bus rapid transit system.
The complication should be worth it, though. When ORBT — Omaha Rapid Bus Transit — begins operation next spring, our city will have taken a welcome step forward in meeting demands for better public transportation. The bus will run between downtown and Westroads Mall, using a technology to hold a green light longer, with a dedicated ORBT lane east of 30th Street.
An ORBT bus will arrive at about 10-minute intervals. It will take 26 to 28 minutes for a full ride between Westroads and downtown, the World-Herald’s Jeff Robb reported.
ORBT will go far to meet public expectations for fuller transportation amenities. The stations will have Wi-Fi and ticket kiosks. Buses will have Wi-Fi, too, and on-board bike racks. A raised platform, train station-style, will facilitate riders’ entry and exit.
Rebecca Ryan, a consulting economist who has worked with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce to develop long-range transportation goals, explained the significance of such a step in comments to the World-Herald last year: “You’re going to get skipped for the big next-generation opportunity if you don’t have that mass transportation that is an alternative to owning your own vehicle.”
Recent analysis by the Nebraska Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency agreed. They recommend focusing 40 percent of the Omaha area’s long-term transportation spending on public transit needs.
The arrival of ORBT next year will help our area move forward on that needed score.