Three transit options to connect downtown to midtown and beyond have emerged from a two-year study aimed at upgrading mass transportation in Omaha.
The $1.3 million transit alternatives analysis, which is spearheaded by Omaha's Metro transit agency, has identified bus rapid transit and modern streetcars as options for the corridor.
Bus rapid transit is something of a cross between regular bus service and a streetcar, with sleek, rubber-wheeled vehicles. Modern streetcars are larger and operate on rails.
Either could run in mixed traffic among other vehicles, or have its own designated lane.
The main options and routes outlined in the study are:
» Bus rapid transit from downtown to 72nd and Dodge Streets and Crossroads Mall, then to Westroads Mall, by way of Dodge and Douglas Streets. Capacity would be 90 people and three bikes, serving about 1,200 new riders per day.
» Bus rapid transit from downtown to 72nd and Dodge Streets and Crossroads Mall, then to Westroads Mall, by way of Farnam and Harney Streets, connecting with Dodge Street at Saddle Creek Road. Capacity would be 90 people and three bikes, serving about 1,400 new riders per day.
» Modern streetcar from downtown to the University of Nebraska Medical Center by way of Farnam and Harney. The route would also run along 10th Street between the Old Market and TD Ameritrade Park. Capacity would be 160 people and six bikes, serving 1,400 new riders per day.
A fourth possible option, which will be discussed with the other ideas at a public meeting Tuesday, would combine both bus rapid transit and streetcars. Streetcars would go in the downtown core. Bus rapid transit would overlap in the downtown area and stretch farther west.
Whatever plan is eventually picked would play a role in Heartland 2050, the larger regional planning project, said Curt Simon, Metro's executive director.
“It's ideal that these studies are occurring at the same time,” he said.
The next step in the study is to identify a locally preferred option.
After that alternative is adopted by the City Council and Metro's board of directors, officials will proceed to further study of a project. That will look at environmental impacts, engineering and a finance plan.
The project cost will be determined by the route's length and the type of technology selected. Simon said that “we're not at that stage” to announce a price tag yet.
Different sources of potential funding have been identified, he said.
Those include federal funding options, which City of Omaha transportation planner Derek Miller hopes to get rolling soon because they are competitive.
While other transit studies have been done in by the city, Metro and private groups, those haven't fit the federal funding process.
“This (alternatives analysis) is something that conforms to the requirements of the Federal Transit Administration to get federal funding,” Miller said.
The public meeting on Tuesday, which will be the fourth and final public meeting on the study, will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mutual of Omaha Auditorium, 3301 Dodge St. The public is invited to discuss the options, provide input and help select the final recommendation.