The possibility that persons living in Bellevue, Papillion, La Vista and Gretna might lose subsidized transportation has been delayed through the end of October.
Bellevue State Sen. Carol Blood and Dennis Loose, director of the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging, both said Friday the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency has agreed to provide $125,000 to fund the ENOA program through the end of October while the Nebraska Department of Transportation works on a permanent solution.
She said the NDOT must seek approval from the Federal Transit Administration for the agreement.
“We continue to work on a long-term solution, but this solution will protect the riders while we work on that,” Blood said.
New service boundaries mandated by the Nebraska Department of Transportation threaten residents of Bellevue, Papillion and Gretna with the loss of affordable transportation sponsored by the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging.
The ENOA’s Rural Transportation Program currently defines everyone in Omaha living west of 120th Street, and all of Sarpy County, as rural. As of July 1, that boundary shifted west to 180th Street, thus eliminating a large section of west Omaha from eligibility for subsidized rides. In addition, the Sarpy County cities of Bellevue, Papillion, La Vista and Gretna lost their rural status after being newly designated part of the urban greater Omaha area.
ENOA’s Rural Transportation Program is federally funded through a two-year renewable grant provided to the Nebraska Department of Transportation by the Federal Transit Administration. The program is restricted to providing low-cost rides to persons living in urban areas who wish to travel to a rural area; persons living in a rural area who wish to travel to an urban area; and trips between rural areas.
Trips within urban areas are not covered by the program.
Blood, who testified at a public hearing on the changes held June 18 in Omaha, said then she would seek ways to reduce the blow.
“People are going to lose their rides,” she said. “We are working on it. We’ve reached out to MAPA, and we’ve contacted the governor’s office, we’re asking NDOT to ask them what they’re going to do about it, we’re contacting all the disability organizations that we know of, AARP, trying to get the word out.”
Loose said between 70 and 75 people use the subsidized transportation during any given week, about half of those regularly. There is no age requirement, he said, but typical users are elderly people keeping medical appointments and disabled children with access to no other form of affordable public transportation.
The new boundaries were imposed after the NDOT realized earlier this year the ENOA program was servicing people traveling between areas designated urban by the 2010 U.S. Census. That problem did not become apparent, Loose said, until an Omaha resident living east of 120th Street complained about being unable to participate. That complaint triggered a review that uncovered the urban-rural problem.