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Omaha seniors look for new transportation sources

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 8:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Watching traffic go by their retirement community, these seniors say life is different for those who drive.

“They need something from the store, they jump in the car and go get it,” Karen Walsh said. “We have to plan out our shopping. It’s a whole different world.”

It’s a world turned upside down for 130 people that the Eastern Nebraska Department on Aging can’t pick up anymore because extra federal funding ended last week, and boundaries had to be enforced.

“They were being transported urban to urban, and we no longer can do that,” said Christine Gillette, of the Office on Aging. “We have to follow the census data. So if they live inside the pink boundary, and their destination is inside the pink boundary, they do not qualify.”

These Omaha seniors living an urban life no longer qualify ENOA rides to urban locations. So now they’re ride seekers.

“We’re used to doing for ourselves, let’s say,” Ella Ferguson said. “It’s difficult to ask people to stop what they’re doing to provide service for us.”

AN ENOA van ride costs $6 for a 10-mile round trip, and $20 for 20 miles there and back.

“I definitely can’t afford taxis or Ubers,” Walsh said.

Although they’re frustrated, some seniors are trying to be resourceful within the rules, calling in to ask whether they can’t be taken to a store or boundary within the Omaha boundary, or a ride to Fremont or Lincoln. But that won’t fly.

“Does that make sense for us to make that kind of trip?” Gillette said. “We have to be conscientious of what we’re doing with our vans and our drivers’ time.”

So urban seniors who need rides in the city hope another organization will step up — and pull up to their doors.

“Someone who feels sorry for us seniors and comes in and helps us out,” Joanne Evert said.

The Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging sees the need for more transportation options, but what they can provide is defined by the rural labels on their six vans.

Metro Transit said it doesn’t have the money to expand service without cutting it somewhere else. But a planning initiative called Metro-Next will look at gaps in ride service. The Metro Area Planning Agency is working with seniors who need rides to find other transportation services. MAPA will continue efforts to find long-term solutions.

MAPA’s statement on ENAO Transportation Services ending:

“MAPA shares the frustration and disappointment of clients who were receiving transportation services through the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging. We have worked with those who have contacted us to attempt to find alternative transportation services to meet their needs, but we realize that, in some cases, there is not another low-cost option available. We continue our efforts to find a longer-tern solution to this problem.”

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