Update on the BRT Progress

21 Apr

We haven’t talked much about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as of late, so we thought it might be time for a quick update. We’re still heavily involved in the BRT Stakeholder Committee with two members from Mode Shift serving on the committee (including the chair of the committee), which gives us an opportunity to stay abreast of the project’s status.

Metro held two open houses nearly a year ago (June 2016) during which attendees were able to ask questions, offer input, and tour a 60’ articulated bus (the type Metro will use for the BRT). Attendance was great, excitement was high, and Metro received some great feedback. If you missed the meeting, here are the materials that were presented.

One of the great outcomes of that process was the establishment of the values of the BRT system. They are:

  1. Reliable
  2. Convenient
  3. Rapid
  4. User-friendly

Metro’s other findings from the input included:

  • The most popular BRT features concerned navigation and convenience, and included next-stop mapping, on-board maps, high-tech payment options, and easy-to-clean seats.
  • Participants much preferred wider aisles and more space over increased seating; many indicating a desire for a “community” feel to the space.
  • Those using mobility assistance devices overwhelmingly preferred rear-facing seats, which allow for independent boarding and departure in addition to signage encouraging responsible use of handicapped seating.
  • People who bicycle preferred either vertical or angled on-board bike racks, which allowed for better use of space.
  • There was encouragement to fit as many bikes on board as possible, with some indicating a desire to leave a bike at a station – thus, bike racks at stops were another common preference.
  • The community expressed interest in future route expansions; station durability, cleanliness, safety, and protection from the elements; and the use of apps or technology, including automatic vehicle location, mobile payments, and wifi on board or at stations.

 Over the last 6-9 months, Metro has also been doing a ton of public outreach – visiting neighborhood association meetings and the like. These efforts will ramp up even further as the final design process unfolds. Speaking of which…

Metro is negotiating the contract for final design, which will generally include all station and right-of-way design, direction on many of the policy and operations elements, and a public engagement campaign. The previous design team took station design to the 30% threshold; the new team will carry that forward and finalize exact station designs and locations for every one of the station locations.

Other major issues the design team will address will be what will happen at the 72nd and 90th & Dodge intersections. These are two of Omaha’s busiest intersections, and many important decisions need to be made. Both intersections are horrible for pedestrians right now. Our hope and aim is to ensure that every decision isn’t based just upon good car traffic throughput. We need to ensure these intersections are safe and, dare we say, enjoyable, for people of all modes. Meanwhile, we want to ensure the BRT lives up to its most important value: rapid.

On the branding front, Metro hired a branding and design firm to lead them through the naming/branding process. The stakeholder committee got a sneak peak of a few of the final names, and we understand that Metro is working on finalizing the name and branding now. We’re hoping for an announcement very soon.  

The stakeholder committee has been very engaged throughout the process and we are confident that they will stay engaged and active as final design unfolds. Things are going to move quickly from here on out – the BRT is scheduled to start running in the fall of 2018, which means construction will start in the fall of 2017!

We’ll do a better job of keeping everyone abreast of BRT activities as the pace hastens. In the interim, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions, or reach out to Metro’s Outreach Coordinator on the BRT, Jason Rose, at jrose@ometro.com.

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