On September 15, 2014, US Department of Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, visited Omaha to personally announce that Metro was awarded a competitive federal TIGER grant for $15 million dollars towards building a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Omaha.
Why is this a Big Deal?
TIGER grants are extremely competitive. Metro’s project was selected as one of only 72 projects out of 797 eligible applications. During his speech, Secretary Foxx compared the competition for one of these grants to gaining acceptance to Harvard or West Point. Perhaps more importantly, we will soon have our first BRT, a completely new transit service never seen before in Omaha.
What exactly is BRT?
BRT is not just another bus. It is an innovative, high-capacity, lower cost public transit solution that replicates the performance, reliability and comfort of rail systems. BRT offers upgraded service with upscale passenger amenities including eight modern, uniquely branded vehicles, real time display, and pre-board ticketing. It provides faster service with limited stops at 14 station pairs and includes infrastructure investments such as semi-exclusive guideway, queue jumps, level boarding, and signal prioritization to improve speed and reliability.
What does this mean for Omaha?
Broader Mobility – The 8 mile BRT line will connect numerous destinations including Westroads, Crossroads, Midtown Crossing, UNO, UNMC, major employment centers centers and downtown on one convenient, frequent transit line. The BRT will operate 7 days a week with 10 minute peak hour frequency and will cut 16 minutes of in-vehicle travel time from Westroads to Downtown. BRT will also connect with nearly every route in Metro’s system, improving travel times to all areas of the Metro system.
Economic Growth – The BRT is projected to increase economic development by $450 million and bring 1,350 new residents along the corridor. It will create 1,200 new jobs and additional short term construction jobs.
And More – This project will bring numerous benefits to the City as a whole. These include, but are not limited to, $2.4 million in reduced greenhouse gas emissions; reduced congestion, water quality damage and traffic accidents; and improved pedestrian and bicyclist conditions.
Dollars and Cents
This $15 million TIGER 2014 grant along with the $5.9 million in grants already secured by Metro for this project including a generous $1 million grant from the Nebraska Department of Road’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds will enable Omaha’s first BRT to move forward. The total project cost is $30.5 million and Metro is already preparing local match funds and reaching out to foundations and others to help support this project.
The BRT is projected to begin operations by the end of 2018. Metro would like to thank Mayor Stothert; Randy Peters, Director of NDOR representing Governor Heineman; Ken Cook, President of East Campus Reality; representatives from Senator Johann’s, Senator Fischer’s and Congressman Terry’s offices; and the numerous other stakeholders and elected officials that joined Metro and Secretary Foxx in support of the TIGER 2014 grant award and the future of mass transit in Omaha.