Editor’s Note: David Levy, a partner at Baird Holm, serves as chair of the Omaha by Design Advisory Committee. Curt Simon, executive director at Metro, challenged committee members to try riding the bus. If you’d like to submit a post for the density project, contact Omaha by Design.

by David Levy

Curt Simon offered a free bus pass to anybody willing to use it. I took him up on it, but it took me nearly a month to use it because of difficulty due to needing a car during the day and linked trips. But recently, I had a day with only one meeting out of the office, and I could ride with a colleague to that. So I decided to take up Curt’s challenge.

planning my trip

I used Metro’s website to plan my trip. It was very easy. You type in the addresses at each end, the time and day of your trip, and voila. It uses Google Maps, so the interface is very familiar.

my trip to work

Like a rookie, I left home at 7:05 for a 7:20 bus. The walk to my stop only took three minutes. It was a beautiful morning and an enjoyable walk.

I arrived at the bus stop at 7:08. Contrary to the stereotype of buses never showing up, here comes my No. 2 (granted, it was the one prior to the one I was planning on taking, but it was right on time).

I realized, however, that I was on the wrong side of 54th Street, so I hurried across. There was one other person at the bus stop when I arrived.

There were about 12 people on the bus at that point. The driver immediately recognized that I had no idea what I was doing with the pass, and he was very helpful. The bus was warm, clean and comfortable.

From 54th and Dodge, we headed east. A few stops later, we paused near the Medical Center for a couple of minutes, presumably to let the schedule catch up to us.

After our pause, we made our way back to Dodge and resumed the trip eastbound. Looking around, I noticed about 20 people on the bus. It looked like some high school kids, many people going to work and a few with suitcases, perhaps heading to the airport. I heard at least one foreign language as well.

Near Midtown Crossing, I noticed the bus stops in the right lane of Dodge and wondered about turnouts in some key locations such as that. The bus shelter there was very nice, however.

After about 10 stops and 16 minutes, we arrived at 19th and Douglas. I disembarked and headed for my office. But first, I stopped at a restaurant, which I would not have done had I been in my car. Although not good for my waistline, this demonstrates that riding transit can be good for Omaha’s economy in many ways.

my trip home

It felt like my days working in San Francisco – checking the bus schedule as I finished up work, anticipating catching that bus home. I left my office about 4:20 (hey, it was Friday after all!) and headed for 18th and Dodge. I waited about 10 minutes (my fault, not Metro’s) for another clean, comfortable bus. This bus also had about 12 people on it. The route was about the same, although we seemed to stop a bit more frequently than we had in the morning. Another 16 minutes, and I was at my stop. Another nice three-minute walk, and I was home.

In reflecting on my ride, one thing that struck me was that I noticed things I have never noticed before, despite passing by hundreds of times. This included houses in my own neighborhood, the Modern Arts Midtown and the vast openness that is Douglas east of the S curve.

Overall, I give high marks to Metro. The service was prompt and quick, the buses were clean and comfortable. The trip was easy and enjoyable. I hope to ride the bus more, but I use my car quite a bit during the work day. If I can find days where I do not need it, however, I will seriously consider taking the bus.