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Metro Transit focusing on North Omaha for new, enhanced service

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 8:25 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The year-long global computer chip shortage is crushing the auto industry and the Delta variant is prompting renewed shutdowns of plants.

Anyone shopping for cars may find themselves experiencing more difficulty and turning to public transportation, and for those who simply want another option to get around, Metro Transit has you covered.

Metro Next is the agency’s initiative to fuse modern connectivity with the growing demand for public transit and part of that ‘next’ idea is moving Omaha toward a city that’s virtually car-less.

It’s the company’s a year-long strategic planning and community engagement effort to develop short- and long-term strategies to enhance transit in the Omaha region.

Although Metro Transit operates hundreds of general bus routes including OBRT and MOBY Paratransit, their ADA accessible service, its connectivity goals aren’t limited to buses.

“We want people to have options, whether that’s being able to choose to ride the bus or ride a bike or access a bike lane or access a scooter or use their wheelchair on a sidewalk or walk. Having safe accessible options is really critical for anyone getting around the city,” said Jason Rose, Metro Transit’s Communications Manager.

The company has a vast vision; working toward a community that doesn’t need to rely on cars to get around and to achieve that, this means they must offer different service in different areas.

“Better bus stops, more frequent buses, more buses in more places, potential ORBT expansion and potential service types that we don’ t serve right now” Rose added.

Metro Next saw huge success with the rollout of ORBT in November, a bus route that uses smart technology for faster more frequent service through downtown.

Now, the agency is hoping to infuse North Omaha with some of the same upgrades.

Rose says their services, like the 24 bus there, is one of their busiest routes.

“There’s so many pockets of people that we’re hoping to better connect by making an investment in 24th street,” said Rose and he explained Metro needs public feedback to do it.

So far the company has put out surveys, and held virtual open meetings among other methods, to reach the community and better understand what it is they would like to see improved, maintained, added, removed, etc

Creating a car-less community doesn’t mean zero vehicles on the road. instead it calls for their service improvements to pick up where bikes or scooters leaves and any other method of transportation leaves off.

it’s a lot of work and requires several partnerships; one of those partnerships includes the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Connect-Go program.

Rose explained Connect Go is essentially a common denominator throughout the city, working with the various stakeholders in the area to “unify the transportation vision so that every mode is considered together. So that we’re working on the same page.”

The North Omaha area is considered Metro Transit’s priority corridor, meaning the neighborhood would be the first to see ridership changes and enhancements in the coming months or years because it is so massive.

The corridor, runs from the North Omaha Transit Center near 30th & Ames to the MCC South Transit Center near 30th & Q via 24th Street.

Right now there is no specific timeline for when work would begin because the company is working on securing funding for a formal study to gather large scale information about rider patterns and needs.

Some of the main areas of concentration and improvement will address:

  • The number of people, jobs, and essential services along each line
  • The percent of low-income residents
  • The percent of minority residents
  • The number of residents with limited mobility due to a disability
  • The number of residents with limited or no access to a vehicle
  • How each line connects with the broader transit network
  • Walkability & pedestrian infrastructure
  • Speed & reliability opportunities
  • Ridership & existing travel patterns
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Development potential
  • Right-of-way & parking constraints

Right now, feedback is the priority for the company and they’re strongly encouraging the public to use their comment form on their website to contribute opinion, concerns, questions or comments.

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