ORBT buses

Renderings of the new ORBT buses.

The people of Metro transit hope a newly minted name and logo will create a hip image for their planned new bus service.

They’re calling it ORBT, short for Omaha Rapid Bus Transit. It’s designed to imply speed and forward momentum, Metro Executive Director Curt Simon said. He and other Metro officials and Mayor Jean Stothert unveiled the branding Wednesday at Westroads Mall, which will be the western terminus of the Dodge Street bus rapid transit route.

City Council members Pete Festersen, Brinker Harding and Vinny Palermo were also on hand to see Simon roll out a banner of the name and logos.

The $30.5 million project is in the design stage. Metro is preparing to buy the 60-foot-long buses (regular buses are 40 feet long) fueled by compressed natural gas. Construction on the stations should begin in spring 2018.

The specially designed buses will run between Westroads and downtown every 10 minutes during rush hour. Stations will offer level bus boarding, real-time arrival displays, WiFi connectivity, bike parking and B-cycle stations. Passengers will be able to buy tickets at the stations before boarding, use a smart card or pay with their phone.

Traffic lights at major intersections will stay green longer so the buses have to stop less. The stations also will be spread farther apart than bus stops on normal routes.

Simon said ORBT, pronounced like the word “orbit,” is short, rapid and memorable.

And they apparently plan to go with the “orbit” theme, as in something otherworldly. A promotional video on the Metro website, rideorbt.com, treats the arrival of the new buses like a UFO sighting.

Launching the brand now gives the public more certainty that the service is coming and builds awareness, Metro board Chairman Daniel Lawse said.

And when the service is running, it will have a catchy name.

“People will say ‘I’m taking the ORBT,’ ” Lawse predicted.

Metro officials hope to begin operating the service late in 2018.

Stothert said ORBT will improve access to jobs and education, reduce traffic congestion and parking needs, increase economic development along the route and help Omaha attract and retain young professionals.

“I’m looking forward to being one of the first riders,” she 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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