Key Point

Areas with the most jobs lack efficient public transit options making it difficult for people to get to work.

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Let's Break It Down

The current transit system is focused more on trying to reach everyone, rather than centered around high-density areas.

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area would benefit from improved public transit access to employment and education centers. These employment centers are continuing to be built in our suburbs, far from the denser urban areas where people who need the jobs most currently reside, and in pockets where our public transit systems currently do not serve at all—or serve efficiently.

A 2013 market analysis report found that of 34 total routes, 9 (26%) of them are disproportionately serving more than half of all riders. There are 5 public transit routes that serve 42% of the riders and 4 routes that serve an additional 20% of riders. The market analysis determined that while the transit system spans all areas of our community, the neighborhoods with the most density are not well connected to the region’s high-density employment centers via frequent and convenient public transit options.

Why Does It Matter?

Increased access to employment means economic growth for our community.

Connecting people to employment through public transit allows more people access to jobs and is essential to the economic growth of our community. Reliable and efficient transportation increases the job stability of people who use public transit to get to work, and gives them more time to spend with family and friends. It also provides an opportunity for increased development around new or expanded transit centers that is seen in other cities such as Salt Lake.

Currently, fifteen-minute transit routes are limited and miss a number of employment centers, specifically in the southwest corner of our community where we are seeing significant job growth. Building out the infrastructure of public transit systems is expensive and difficult, especially given that our region’s current spending on public transit is low compared to the national average and median spending. Average public transit spending per person in the Metro area was $36 in 2013. Nationally, the average amount of public transit spending per person was $76, with a median spending of $56. The lack of efficiency and access throughout the region’s public transportation still outweigh the relatively low costs of using public transit in Omaha-Council Bluffs metro.

However, more strategic investment in public transit has begun with Metro’s planned 8-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will ultimately provide faster and more efficient routes along the busy Dodge Street corridor, and connect with almost all existing transit lines. While the BRT will offer unprecedented transit service to the area, it is a costly endeavor that has taken more than five years of planning and development and a $30 million price tag to come to fruition. As our community continues to expand beyond the current routes, we will need decide whether to develop new routes, continue to increase the availability of current routes, or change how we plan for future development of employment centers.

How Do We Compare?

We need more community data (and investment) to say.

Because we do not have clear data on how many people might be lacking access to public transit, it is difficult to compare to national data, or even data in other cities. We do know however that our spending on public transit per capita of $36 is much lower than Kansas City (approximately $50), Grand Rapids MI (approximately $52), and the national average ($76) and median ($56) spending on public transit. 

Data Source: 2013 Heartland Connections: Regional Transit Vision Feasibility Analysis, 2012 METRO Ridership Study.

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