On November 18, 2020, Metro Transit — the City of Omaha’s Transit Authority — launched its first bus rapid transit line and Omaha’s most significant public transit investment in decades. A project nearly 10 years running, bringing Omaha Rapid Bus Transit (ORBT) to life required a decade-long partnership of robust public outreach efforts and a launch celebration worthy of its history-making caliber.
We spearheaded initial public outreach in tandem with the Metro Transit communications team and SRF Consulting — working to gather feedback from workshops, public meetings, open houses, community conversations and more that ultimately influenced ORBT’s station design, vehicle layout and brand. As ORBT entered the more publicly visible construction and launch stage, Emspace + Lovgren also helped support the agency’s media communications. Our end goal was to foster community acceptance of the new service and, most importantly, increase ridership on Dodge Street.
A key challenge posed during this time was how could we introduce a public transit service in the middle of a pandemic? Our collaborative strategy included three scenario options for our media approach and launch day plans, as nearly every day brought forth new information and caused the team to pivot.
The multi-faceted campaign spanned media outreach, a robust social media strategy, a series of eight videos, and 30 issues of an email newsletter — culminating in a press event with dignitaries and stakeholders and a virtual ribbon cutting experience for the public.
A true team effort, the ORBT launch was a huge success — already doubling ridership along Dodge Street within its first days of service and achieving a long-awaited goal for our community. In total, the launch strategy garnered 2.3 million media impressions and just under $2 million in publicity value, exceeding expectations for what was possible in the middle of a pandemic.
Other notable highlights included:
To help prepare Metro’s website for an influx of traffic from the launch efforts surrounding ORBT and to reflect the agency’s organizational momentum, we were also tasked with overhauling Metro’s website. Emspace + Lovgren conducted creative workshops with Metro staff to gather insights on its vision, along with interviews with current riders, Metro stakeholders and groups like Omaha Association of the Blind to keep accessibility at the heart of our design.
Together with Plumb Web Strategy, we developed ometro.com with new features inspired by our research findings, including a one-of-a-kind, interactive system map with dynamic tools for riders to learn more about each route in Metro’s network. The team designed custom illustrations for Metro’s daily bus, rapid transit and paratransit services, and executed a robust content strategy with comprehensive information on how to ride ORBT.
Launched two weeks before ORBT’s opening day, the new website greatly improved the user experience on the front- and back-end. Metro saw a 979% increase in visitors and 859% increase in page views within the first month. Route and rider alert changes that once took Metro’s IT director a full day to painstakingly update one-by-one can now be automatically updated site wide with the simple upload of a spreadsheet exported from Metro’s internal software program.