Omaha Metro staff prepares for ORBT launch


Zach Gilbert

After beginning construction in August 2019, the ORBT bus service is set to launch later this fall. Photo courtesy of Metro Transit.

Ahead of the planned opening of ORBT, Omaha’s first rapid transit system, Metro bus drivers are hard at work to train and prepare for the bus line’s launch.

“ORBT buses are longer and wider than our other buses with three doors and a flexible joint separating the two cabins,” said Metro Training Supervisor Tracy Wells. “It was imperative that our operators got a feel for how these articulated buses handled as early as possible.”

Operators have been training since late last year, focusing on familiarizing themselves with the vehicles, navigating travel in winter weather and properly arriving at ORBT platforms and boarding zones with the appropriate space for passenger entry.

“Our operators have really enjoyed driving these buses, and we’re excited to offer a smooth and comfortable ride for our passengers,” Wells said.

Currently, operators have been conducting trips along the ORBT routes. As soon as final infrastructure elements such as guide strips for the buses, a downtown bus lane and a boarding zone at 84th Street are completed, they will begin active training at all ORBT stations as well.

Construction on the ORBT bus service began in August 2019. ORBT, which stands for Omaha Rapid Bus Transit, is intended to “unite smart technology and streamlined travel for faster, more frequent public transportation,” according to the service’s official website.

ORBT’s route runs from Westroads Mall to downtown Omaha, replacing Route 2 of the Metro bus system. ORBT bus stations are placed further apart than previous bus stops and centered around more popular locations (such as Westroads Mall, the University of Nebraska Omaha and more), which allows for less interrupted travel and helps individuals reach their ideal destinations in less time.

ORBT vehicles are 50% longer than Metro’s longest buses, and they offer level boarding with raised station platforms in order to ensure accessible boarding. In addition, when an ORBT bus arrives at a designated station, passengers can board the bus through any of the three doors, allowing for a less congested boarding period.

Bicycles are allowed on all buses, and they can be stored on a bike rack when on board. ORBT also provides Wi-Fi both at every station and on every bus, preserving access to internet connection.

Metro maintains that an ORBT bus will “arrive at a platform every 10 minutes between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays,” according to a Q&A earlier this year with the Omaha World Herald.

For most individuals, a ride on an ORBT bus will cost the same as regular bus rides through the Metro bus system ($1.25 per ride for an adult and $55 for a 30-day unlimited ride pass), and tickets can be purchased at a station kiosk to avoid bothering with cash while on board.

However, riding on ORBT will be free to all UNO students, faculty and staff thanks to the MavRIDE program. A MavCARD works as a bus pass.