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ORBT system flawed
December 8, 2021
Omaha Rapid Bus Transit, or ORBT, the city’s newest development in public transportation, debuted about a year ago, and its performance so far has been underwhelming.
The ORBT bus line runs up and down Dodge Street along the same route that the No. 2 bus used to run, but with far fewer stops—about one every ten blocks.
This means that traveling on the ORBT is a lot faster than on other Metro bus lines, but it also makes the line less convenient, because passengers may have to walk further to get to their destinations.
ORBT buses also have a different design from the other Metro buses; they’re painted grey and bright orange instead of blue and white, and they’re significantly larger.
However, they don’t seem to seat many more people than the other Metro buses. Much of the added space goes to waste in the middle of the bus, where there is a joint between the front and back halves, followed by a set of bike racks which rarely have more than one bike in them.
Of course, passengers can stand in these spaces, and the ORBT buses don’t get as crowded as the regular Metro ones as a result, but most passengers prefer to sit on the bus, and the fact that there is not more seating in a bus so large does not make much sense.
The ORBT also has a different payment method than regular Metro buses. Instead of having to come up to the front door, passengers can get on at any of the three doors throughout the bus and pay at one of the stations there.
This makes boarding the bus much faster, especially at busier times, and it’s one of the best things about the ORBT. The problem arises with passengers like students, who do not have to pay for rides on any bus line in Omaha.
Though these passengers are supposed to be able to board the bus as any others would, just without stopping at a payment station, many bus drivers will require them to come up to the front and show their ID card, to prove that they do not have to pay.
This, in and of itself, is not a huge issue; it only takes a second to show a card, and drivers are usually willing to let students on without showing their ID cards at a busy time like right after school. The problem is the inconsistency. Passengers who don’t have to pay for a ride don’t always know what to do when boarding the bus, and this adds unnecessary stress to their trip.
Inconsistency as a whole is ORBT’s biggest flaw.
Right now, it seems that there is a shortage of ORBT buses. It is common to see a regular Metro bus show up in place of an ORBT one. Frequent ORBT passengers get used to this pretty fast but showing up to a stop to find the “wrong” bus can be confusing for less frequent passengers.
This has also contributed to the ORBT’s lack of a consistent schedule. ORBT buses are supposed to show up every fifteen minutes, but this is rarely true, and when it is, the buses aren’t showing up when the schedule says they should be.
This is not so much of a problem for those using the ORBT to get home, but it is a problem for those using the ORBT to get to work or another place where they need to arrive at a set time. The lack of a consistent schedule makes planning difficult and riding the ORBT a hassle.
All of these flaws can be fixed, though, and some of them are already headed in a positive direction—the bus schedule has made marked improvements of late. Besides, the ORBT’s faster speeds and increased (though misused) capacity make it at least a neutral change in comparison to the other Metro lines.
The ORBT is not horrible, but it is a disappointment. It was proposed as a way to revolutionize public transportation in Omaha, and it has fallen well short of that goal.