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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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The two-year study of Omaha’s transit system has identified a combination of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Urban Circulator in the central Omaha area as the best option for the future of mass transit in central and downtown Omaha. This system, called the Locally Preferred Alternative, includes a 7.98 mile BRT line between downtown, midtown, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Crossroads and Westroads.

It also includes  a 3.22 mile Urban Circulator line between north downtown, downtown, midtown and UNMC. Studies show these transit improvements could lead to more than one billion dollars in new development, thousands of jobs and significantly increase the residential population in downtown Omaha.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Agency’s transportation committee agreed Friday to open a public comment period on the plan before the second phase of study begins this summer. That analysis will evaluate the combination of the Bus Rapid Transit and the Urban Circulator, the environmental impacts, engineering and financing plans. “We will not commit to anything without solid answers about costs and funding,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We will not support the project if it requires a general tax increase.  It will take a committed public, private, philanthropic partnership to make the project a reality and we will work with these groups as the study progresses.”

“The City wants to be fiscally responsible and find a way to grow our tax base while making use of existing city services and infrastructure without increasing taxes.  The Locally Preferred Alternative looks to achieve this goal,” said City Transportation Planner Derek Miller.

The transit study was initiated to identify a safe, efficient affordable, attractive and connected transit system that offers convenient, accessible and affordable mobility for Omaha residents.  It evaluated several alternatives including enhanced bus, bus rapid transit and Urban Circulator.  A no-build option was also considered.

The BRT proposal includes advanced bus service, room for 40-90 passengers, custom stops and shelters, and room for bicycles on the front of the bus. It would operate seven days a week with 19 hours of service on weekdays   The Urban Circulator would accommodate 130-160 passengers per vehicle, it would share travel lanes and stops with buses, operate in mixed traffic and have room for bikes on board.

The Locally Preferred Option is part of Metro Transit’s overall plan to improve ridership and connectivity in the area. “We are currently evaluating our regional transit network to improve ridership and connectivity in all areas of the city,” said Metro Executive Director Curt Simon. “The Locally Preferred  Alternative will strengthen the central core of Omaha and will become the backbone of our entire transit network.  Future projects will build off of this core to provide upgraded services to other parts of the city.” 

The second phase of the study is expected to begin July 1.  The projected cost is $1.2-$1.5 million dollars.  The study will be paid for primarily with federal funds, private donations and in-kind support from local agencies.