In one of those life-is-unfair predicaments, some disabled Omahans feel left out — stuck in their homes while other handicapped residents can travel freely through the city at low cost, courtesy of a taxpayer-supported van service.
Thanks to the MOBY service, many disabled Omahans can make doctor appointments, go shopping, participate in other activities and generally lead mobile lives across town.
However, MOBY, which is part of Omaha's Metro transit bus system, serves only the disabled who live within its route boundaries or within three-quarters of a mile of those boundaries.
Metro was formerly known as Metro Area Transit.
Catherine Fangman, 43, who doesn't work outside her home, lives in the Hillsborough neighborhood in northwest Omaha.
She's been hoping for years to catch a ride with MOBY. Her home northeast of 144th Street and West Maple Road is well outside the nearest Metro boundary, which is along 120th Street and between West Maple Road and Blondo Street.
“I've been trying to get a ride for 20 years,'' said Fangman, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a walker.
“Their response is always 'We don't go out that far,''' said Fangman, who is married and has a 19-year-old son attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Federal funding guidelines and the Americans With Disabilities Act confine MOBY to the boundaries of Metro's fixed bus routes. That includes the three-quarter of a mile exception, which is about eight blocks, said Kelly Shadden, director of Metro operations.
Shadden said he is sympathetic to Fangman's situation. MOBY averages about one request a month for a ride beyond its boundaries, he said, and has extended service elsewhere in town after review, such as to the 170th Street and West Center Road area.
Metro officials have considered a route along West Maple Road well past 120th Street to accommodate the disabled in northwest Omaha, Shadden said, and will continue to study the issue.
West Maple Road, he said, is not “transit-handy,'' which means it has no sidewalks to handle passengers boarding and exiting Metro vehicles. Also, Shadden said, some of the access roads to areas such as the strip malls along West Maple Road couldn't handle Metro's big buses.
“Our buses would tear up those asphalt roads,'' he said.
To receive MOBY service, Shadden said, a rider must pass a qualification process demonstrating that a disability prevents the rider from boarding a full-size Metro transit bus.
A MOBY ride is $2.50 per trip, double the regular adult transit fare, he said, so extending beyond the Metro boundaries is not financially feasible when factoring in fuel costs.
None of the MOBY guidelines appease Fangman, who moved into Hillsborough 20 years ago.
“Maybe I'd like to go to a bookstore and hang out there once in a while,'' she said of being independent and not burdening her son and husband for rides.
“They've got their own lives,'' she said. “My husband works and my son loves going to UNO.''
“But I'd love to be able to go to Starbucks,'' Fangman added, “and spend time with some friends.''
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