Public transit agencies face many challenges this year as they navigate falling ridership numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst the budget cuts, layoffs, and fare increases, there have been a few success stories at select organizations across the country. One such case is the recent launch of the Omaha Rapid Bus Transit (ORBT), the first rapid transit bus line in Omaha, Nebraska.
ORBT will enhance efficiency across the Omaha Metro system and increase access to essential services, employment, and key institutions. The agency has also proved its commitment to enhancing public transit by including various technology systems to decrease travel time, ensure passenger safety and accessibility, and incorporate pandemic sanitation measures. The ORBT route will utilize Transit Signal Priority (TSP) technology to recognize a bus approaching and extend a green light, and each bus in the fleet is outfitted with electrostatic foggers to ensure cleanliness of high-touch surfaces.
In an effort to increase ridership, Metro Transit advertised that there will be no cost to ride the ORBT line through March. After its first week of operation, Metro Transit reported that ridership along the Dodge Street route had doubled. This success shows that, despite the drastic decrease in public transit ridership nationwide, there is still a significant demand for reliable transit in our communities.
Omaha has demonstrated how efficiency, cost, and the assurance of safety onboard are key factors that can bring riders back to public transit.