A University of Nebraska at Omaha ID card will soon be a bus pass, too.

UNO officials announced an expansion to the university’s ride program on Monday that will give free bus rides to all students, faculty and staff. As of Jan. 2, riders can swipe their MavCards on any Metro bus route. There’s no need to register; any active UNO card will be automatically ready for use.

Sarah Burke, UNO’s sustainability coordinator, said making the free rides universal and more convenient will mean less strain on campus for parking.

Parking can be a struggle during peak hours, and there is only so much space for new stalls, Burke said. A new parking garage is in the works on the Pacific Campus, but Burke said UNO is trying to make it more convenient for people to take buses, ride bikes and carpool to campus.

The existing program allows students and staff to get a free bus pass to go to and from campus. But Burke said she believes greater bus access will get more students using transit for trips to the grocery store or for exploring Omaha, not just commuting to class.

UNO’s parking services office and student government will split the cost, which has a flat annual fee of $60,000 no matter how many rides are taken. UNO’s contract with Metro runs through 2018.

“We won’t have to build more parking and maintain those structures, and they’re saving on gas and wear and tear on personal vehicles,” Burke said.

Bus routes run down Dodge, Center and Pacific Streets, getting students close to each part of UNO’s campus. A campus shuttle also connects those areas every 10 to 15 minutes.

Curt Simon, Metro’s executive director, said the UNO program follows in the footsteps of Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which offers a similar program for students and staff at the college, Nebraska Medicine and Clarkson College.

For commuters who don’t live near a bus route, Simon said park-and-ride facilities are on Route 92, which runs right past the Dodge Street campus.

Contact the writer: 402-444-3185, kate.howard@owh.com

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