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ORBT marks 1 year of service in Omaha as officials look to what's next
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ORBT marks 1 year of service in Omaha as officials look to what's next

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Westbound ORBT route

The wheels on Omaha’s big orange buses have gone round and round for one year.

The first ORBT bus left a Metro Transit garage at 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2020.

Since then, the rapid transit buses have been regular fixtures on Dodge and Douglas Streets. And now Metro Transit officials are reflecting on ORBT’s first year in service and looking to the future.

The rapid transit bus line has seen steady growth. The $37 million project brought 60-foot-long buses to the route, from downtown Omaha to Westroads Mall, with 27 stops along the way.

It also brought several amenities to the route, including stations with raised platforms, buses with three-door boarding, bus lanes, priority at traffic signals and upgraded technology at stations and on board.

ORBT buses averaged 10,727 rides per week in September, the highest recorded on Dodge Street in nearly two decades. The buses are on track to surpass 500,000 rides by the end of January, according to Metro Transit.

“We’ve heard from lots of people in our community that live or want to live near Dodge Street in order to take advantage of ORBT,” said Lauren Cencic, Metro’s CEO. “That demand has generated a strong market for housing and transit-oriented development near our stations.”

In 2020, the City of Omaha issued permits for nearly 1.4 million square feet of development within one-fourth mile of the ORBT route, with a valuation of $188 million, according to Metro.

The bus line was one of the largest transit investments in decades in Omaha, said Amy Haase, chair of Metro’s Board of Directors.

“The success of the first year of ORBT demonstrates the potential and the opportunity for a regional network of rapid transit lines in the future,” Haase said.

Metro officials in July announced that 24th Street had been selected as the next transit priority corridor.

Cencic at the time called 24th Street a “critical community connector, linking services, jobs, housing, recreation, education and a multitude of other destinations.”

Metro Transit has received a $1.6 million federal grant to study the 24th Street corridor and plan for future transit developments.

The agency also is gathering community input on several topics, including routes and schedules, expanded services and fares and payments.

Virtual community meetings will be held on Tuesday and Dec. 2. Information on how to join the meetings can be found at https://www.ometro.com/metronext/.

ORBT costs the same as other local routes at $1.25 per ride and 25 cents to transfer. The buses were free to ride until Oct. 1, when the agency launched a new contactless payment option, Umo.

Umo is an account-based fare payment system that allows riders to board buses with a mobile app, or board with a Umo smart card and manage accounts online.


jwade@owh.com, 402-444-1067

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Jessica Wade covers breaking news, crime and the Omaha zoo. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Wade_OWH. Phone: 402-444-1067

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