OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - City officials joined Omaha's Metro Transit on Thursday afternoon to unveil design details about the city's planned rapid bus system along West Dodge Road — including buses capable of extending green lights to keep the direct line moving.
"If we want to continue to attract amazing employers, as we have in the past, we need to continue to invest in our transportation future," Omaha Metro Board Chairman Daniel Lawse said.
Omaha Rapid bus transit, or ORBT, will be built along Dodge Street, from Old Market to Westroads Mall. East of 30th Street, Business Access & Transit (BAT) lanes would be semi-exclusive to ORBT vehicles; turning vehicles would be permitted in those lanes as well.
The express line buses will be equipped with Transit Signal Priority, which would enable traffic lights to recognize approaching ORBT vehicles and extend the length of green lights to accommodate the vehicle, said Curt Simon, Omaha Metro's executive director.
Officials anticipate the express route to function much like a train line along 10th street to Westroads — Omaha's busiest corridor — with buses arriving every 10 minutes. ORBT station plans include real-time arrival signage and off-board ticketing — no fare boxes. Many stations will have a B-cycle component, and all bus stations along the route will have free wi-fi.
"This adds another layer of diversity to our transportation options, which puts us into a position where we can thrive," said Lawse, who said he rides the bus almost every day of the work week.
Westroads is allocating 100 free parking spaces for ORBT commuters, according to Metro officials. Bus station designs are about 60 percent complete, they said at Wednesday's press conference.
"Transportation touches everyone in Omaha nearly every single day," Mayor Jean Stothert said Wednesday. "High-quality transit options are critical for a growing city like ours."
The mayor said the planned ORBT line will address several key growth factors for Omaha: It will reduce traffic congestion and parking needs, increase development along the route, and increase the city's ability to attract and retain young professionals.
"Transit is a critical component to the rapid development of our urban core, and ORBT will be a great step toward our goal," the mayor said.
Metro is also planning upgrades to existing bus routes, rebuilding 50 bus stops around the city and replacing a third of the existing fleet — 38 new buses — this year, Lawse said. Half of those new buses will be clean-fuel, low-emission vehicles.
GPS tracking of city buses will also be available soon, with notification features that can alert users to anticipated bus arrival times, he said.
The city is also rolling out nine Moby vehicles — one is expected to be in service tomorrow, Lawse said.
The ORBT is scheduled to be up and running by the end of the year. In 2014, Metro was awarded a federal grant to build Omaha's first rapid transit line. Officials said the ROI for the project will be $8 for every $1 invested.