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Metro evolving to regional agency, opening door to expand bus service beyond Omaha

Board of Directors will become elected positions in 2024
Metro Transit is officially looking toward the future and preparing to become a regional service.
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 1:51 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha’s bus lines could soon extend outside city limits.

Metro Omaha announced Thursday it will be transitioning from a city transit authority to the Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority of Omaha, made possible by Nebraska legislation passed in 2019.

The changes won’t immediately affect Omaha bus and transportation services — Metro Omaha operates local bus services as well as ORBT and Moby transportation — but “this move opens the door for Metro to take its public transportation services beyond Omaha’s city limits,” a news release from Metro states.

“Omaha is growing. Omaha is interconnected. We need to look at supporting ourselves as a region. This is a step to start to think that way and start to prepare ourselves for future growth,” Metro CEO Lauren Cencic said in the news release.

The new structure, which officially takes effect Aug. 1, could lead to an increase in Metro’s tax levy down the road, but Thursday’s decision “does not change the budget on its own.” These changes also mean that Metro’s Board of Directors will become elected positions.

“Having an elected Board of Directors is a very exciting step for us,” said Amy Haase, chairwoman of the Metro Board of Directors in a statement on the Metro website. “We have heard a lot of feedback on our MetroNEXT program, which includes a call for a better response from elected officials. The shift to a Regional Transit Authority will allow those we serve to have an even greater say in how our transportation system can meet their future needs.”

Plans call for separating Douglas County into seven different districts based on population, allowing for a vote for Metro regional board representatives. The first such election is expected to take place in 2024; until then, current board members will serve as Metro’s temporary Board, with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert appointing new board members for any vacancies that occur before that vote.

According to Metro, there are no plans to increase fares; the website notes that Metro has not raised fares since 2011, “when the cost of a transfer was raised from $0.05 to $0.25.”

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