Cities step up to save Tri-Community Express

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 12:00 am

Sarpy County's Tri-Communities Express bus route will remain funded in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Papillion's city council unanimously voted to approve an amendment to the budget to pay $7,500 to keep the route.

At previous council meetings in both Papillion and La Vista, many residents spoke against cutting the route and the councils listened.

The money to bring the route back will come from Papillion's cash reserves, Mayor David Black said.

Initially, Black proposed cutting the route's funding.

“I don't think anybody questions the value of public transportation,” Black said. “It's at what cost.”

While money for funding the route was removed from Papillion and La Vista budgets, it was never removed from Ralston's budget, said Mayor Don Groesser. Ralston will pay about $8,000 to fund the route this year, he said.

Representatives from Papillion, La Vista and Ralston met with a Metro transit representative to discuss options for keeping the route. They discussed needed changes to increase ridership. Some of the options discussed included using smaller buses, creating a more direct route and changing to a park-and-ride system, said Mitch Beaumont, spokesman for the City of La Vista.

La Vista government hopes to find money elsewhere in the budget to fund the route.

The options to streamline and make the bus service more attractive were a large consideration for the cities.

“Metro is having a conversation about making it more efficient,” Black said. “It's opening the door for trust and dialogue.”

Metro submitted a proposal to all three cities, Beaumont said. The proposal would straighten the route along 84th Street and would create additional park-and-ride locations. It would lower the overall cost per city to $5,688, Beaumont said.

In the next year, the three cities will monitor the ridership numbers and determine if they will continue to fund the route.

“If at the end of the year it's as inefficient, we'll consider defunding it again,” Black said.

In addition to wanting increased ridership, Black also wants to see more efficient routes.

“We don't have a lot of ridership, but I would hope people would use the bus with gas prices the way they are and convenience of getting around,” Groesser said. “I really hope people start utilizing the route.”

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