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Omaha Redefines Transit with High Frequency Bus Service

Omaha sets out to prove that strong transit isn't just "a Portland thing or a New York thing."
May 21, 2015, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Eric Jaffe examines Omaha as a case study of a low-density city in the heartland beginning to embrace transit—and making smart moves to take advantages of its opportunities to do so.

First Jaffe notes that Omaha is far from the kind of dense urban environment that transit requires to thrive. Thus, the "city's Metro bus system averages just 18 boardings per revenue-hour, and only two of its 34 lines run every 15 minutes—the minimum threshold for show-up-and-go service."

But in addition to incremental improvements like increased population downtown and a bar shuttle recently launched by a microtransit start-up, the city is also moving forward with a sweeping overhaul of its bus network.

"At the end of May, Metro will debut its FORWARD plan: a fully reconfigured bus network that emphasizes more frequency, better night and weekend service, direct lines through high-ridership corridors, and grid-style access to many parts of the city. The top five routes will now all get 15-minute peak service, and there's a new max wait time of an hour across the system—down from 90-to-120 minutes."

Jaffe provides a lot more detail about the plan and its impacts, including maps and infographics to illustrate those points. Also of note, regarding the future of transit in Omaha, is that the Metro Forward plan also sets the stage for a bus rapid transit line, funded by a $15 million TIGER grant awarded in September. The city expects to launch an eight-mile BRT line by 2018.

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Published on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 in CityLab
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