Bus critics misguided: new system crucial



By Brooke Criswell
Online Content Manager

As Omaha is continuing to grow and make the top “best places for…” lists, it’s only right that the city feel more metropolitan.

Busses are a large amount of transportation in cities. Perception is the key though. When I went to London, it was very common to jump on a big red bus to get place to place. However, in Omaha, bus routes are not as common nor as frequent as those in other cities, and I wouldn’t really feel that safe riding them in their current state. Omaha’s Metro hopes to change all that when they roll out Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in 2018.

Bus Rapid Transit is similar to bus systems that will be familiar to most, with a few crucial differences. Sleeker, modern buses with subway-like sliding doors, tickets purchased before bus entry, dedicated lanes, and even traffic signal priority will combine to give the ultra-modern buses an edge over traffic.

Public education is going to be one of the toughest challenges Metro faces with BRT, said Metro Director Curt Simon. Not many people know what it is yet.

By the fall of 2018 more than 25 of the BRT (bus rapid transit) stations will mark along Dodge Street as the route runs from Westroads Mall to downtown.

The stations will help rebrand transit in Omaha as a cool, fast, comfortable, reliable and modern way of getting around, Simon said.

In a response to this news, some have criticized the purported system for the potential to lose money. Other criticisms of the project revolve solely on cost. The cost of the stations is projected to about $7 million, according to Metro handouts. Around half will be paid with federal funds and the rest with local funds. The whole project is projected at $30.6 million.

Considering Omaha’s growth, our city deserves it. Not every service should be out there to make a fortune of a profit. Sometimes, it’s good to help others. Having this transportation could help a lot of college students get new jobs that they may not have been able to get because of a lack of a car.

There will be fourteen stops in between Westroads and 10th Street in the Old Market. The busses will also run more often than any route in town, arriving every 10 minutes during rush hours, 15 minutes on off-peak hours and every 20 minutes in the evenings. The aim is to run the 8-mile route from Westroads Mall to downtown much faster than the 20 minutes or so it takes in a car.

Those critical of the system are also very concerned about the homeless people of Omaha and making sure they design the system to prevent them from riding them all day long. That’s another part of the education the Metro will have to a take a handle on.

If they set up a system where you have your tickets bought beforehand like they are planning to and people do their own thing, get on and get off, it really shouldn’t be a concern. Busses and other forms of public transportation are used all around the world every day by millions of people.

Omaha is reinventing itself and helping create a more urban vibe, which I think is really neat. It shows the growth and potential this city has. All in all, I think this will serve the public well.