Omaha is speeding up fast transit, but the city still has a long way to go
This story is part of a package released ahead of the Omaha general election in May 2021. Read all of your personal perspectives on Omaha-related topics here.
One last Sunday, Jeff S. was sitting on a bench at the Westroads Mall bus station, waiting an hour for the bus home. He got rid of his car five years ago because he couldn’t afford maintenance costs and had to quit his job in Council Bluffs because it took an hour and a half to get there by bus from Omaha.
Since Omaha created its transportation system in 1972, which unites a patchwork of private systems, routes have multiplied as the city has grown. However, inconvenient timetables and the public’s preference for buying cars resulted in fewer passengers and fewer service.
There are currently three types of public transportation in Omaha: the MOBY subway bus system, a transportation service for disabled residents, and ORBT, the city’s new high-speed bus transit system that runs along Dodge Street. However, the system remains cumbersome for some who have to switch up to three times to reach their goals.
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“Going to Council Bluffs and Bellevue is terrible,” Jeff said. “The transport runs every hour and a half if you’re lucky. Also, the west is completely unsupervised, so you have to walk for a long time and wait for the bus to arrive. “
The bus schedule is available online at ometro.com, but not everyone has internet access.
“Before, you could have the schedule on paper,” Jeff said. “I think they’re not giving them out anymore because of the whole COVID-19 thing. I already know the timetables, but with that and with the change in the route of the whole system and how sometimes the buses don’t run on time when you don’t have a cell phone, you don’t know what happened. “
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Thomas Hennessy came to college in Omaha, attracted by the promise of the “good life”. He said the job opportunities are better than his Minnesota home, and that public transportation helps him get to and from work.
“I like the transportation system, but it should improve the timetable on traditional buses,” he said. “I work at night and finish my shift at 2:30 am and have to take Uber, which is expensive.”
While planning to stay in Omaha for a while, he says the city could attract more young people if it had a better transportation system.
The city plans to expand the ORBT routes but has not announced a schedule.