ORBT rendering.jpg

An artist’s rendering of a new bus station along Metro transit’s planned Omaha Rapid Bus Transit line. The stations and the 60-foot-long buses will be designed for level boarding — no climbing steps to board the bus.

The rapid bus is going to be late. But it must still be coming because the City of Omaha is preparing to lease ORBT bus station sites to the Metro transit agency.

A lease agreement for 25 station sites for the Omaha Rapid Bus Transit service is making its first appearance on the Omaha City Council agenda Tuesday. It’s likely to be approved Dec. 11. It’s a 20-year lease beginning in 2019.

That’s when Metro had hoped to launch the service, which promises faster travel on the Dodge Street corridor on sleek new buses that stop at high-tech stations every 10 minutes during rush hours.

Metro officials now hope that ORBT will be running by spring 2020.

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Under the terms of the lease, Metro would pay the same nominal annual rent, $25, for each ORBT station site that it currently pays the City of Omaha for bus shelter sites on city property.

“It’s the next step in the process, prior to constructing all the stations and then becoming operational next year,” said City Councilman Pete Festersen, whose district will include 11 of the stations.

He said that by leasing the sites at a nominal rate, the city can contribute to the success of the federally funded $30 million project.

The buses will run between Westroads Mall and 10th and Douglas Streets, near the CHI Health Center and the Old Market.

The buses will travel both ways on Dodge Street from Westroads to Turner Park, about 31st Street, where Dodge becomes a westbound, one-way street. From there, the eastbound ORBT buses will travel on Douglas Street before turning around and heading west on Dodge.

The ORBT stations will be built of glass and concrete wrapped in graffiti-resistant metal, Metro has said. They’ll have touch-screen digital signage that people can use to see when the next bus is coming, which will be real-time information because the buses will have GPS. The stations will have decorative lighting.

They’ll be on raised platforms to allow level boarding through all three doors of the 60-foot-long buses.

People will wave or swipe their tickets on a reader as they board. Passengers will be able to buy tickets at a kiosk in the station if they haven’t prepaid.

ORBT officials have been meeting with neighborhood groups along the route to update people on the project and how the stations will work, Festersen said.

“Adding BRT will be a big step forward as our community seeks additional transit opportunities,” he said.

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Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

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