Starting May 10, Metro Transit will be implementing a program that will allow all elementary and high school students in the Omaha metro area to ride city buses for free for nearly 13 months.
Until June 1, 2022, the “K-12 Rides Free” program will grant kindergarten through 12th-grade students the opportunity to ride bus, MOBY and ORBT around Omaha and surrounding areas during service hours at no charge.
Though identification will not be required for youth attending elementary and middle schools, high school students will be required to show a valid student ID prior to boarding a bus. Those who do not possess such identification can receive one from Metro.
According to the program’s press release, it is designed to “provide greater access to public transportation as the city’s education sector continues to grow” and “the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change transportation needs around the region.”
Omaha Public Schools (OPS) was quick to offer their support of the K-12 Rides Free program.
“As Omaha Public Schools expands options for students throughout our district and prepares to open two new high schools, we enthusiastically support the opportunity Metro Transit is offering young people across our community,” OPS Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan said.
Metro officials – including CEO Lauren Cencic – stated that they were happy to help give students “reliable access to education, jobs, and other opportunities throughout the Metro area.”
“K-12 Rides Free provides a great opportunity for us to continue to build strong community partnerships,” Cencic said. “Our mission is to connect people, places, and opportunities through quality transit services, and the schools in our community are critical anchors in that mission.”
Elkhorn High School teacher Abby Whalen maintained that she was hopeful for what this program meant for public transportation in Omaha overall.
“Public transportation in Omaha has made gains with more buses and rapid routes as of late, but the system has vast room for improvement compared to other comparable cities,” Whalen said.
Specifically, Whalen stated that students would benefit both personally and professionally.
“Adding more bus routes and allowing students to ride those buses for free allows more kids to get to work or activities,” Whalen said. “Gas prices, insurance, and car payments add up quickly. Teens may be able to more easily save up for those expenses or the long list of other expenses that go with growing up by getting to work without worrying about paying for the ride.”
Looking ahead, Whalen has a few other suggestions for public transportation expansion in Omaha.
“I teach in suburban Omaha, where public transportation has yet to gain a stronghold,” Whalen said. “Rapid transit from West O to city hot spots like Aksarben/UNO, Blackstone/Midtown, or the CHI Center could link teens to the entertainment offerings of Omaha and expand their job radius if more transit develops.”