(Courtesy of Metro, Omaha’s public transit authority)
OMAHA — Omaha’s public transit system celebrated its golden anniversary Friday with a day of fare-free rides and an announcement of a bus-wrapping art contest targeting area students.
Metro also marked its 50-year milestone with the opening of its newest bus station — at Eighth and Farnam Streets, next to the newly re-opened Gene Leahy Mall — to complete Omaha’s first rapid bus transit line, ORBT.
The free rides on Friday covered all Metro, MOBY and ORBT vehicles. Regular fares were set to resume Saturday.
The “Wheel Appeal” contest calls for middle and high school students in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area to participate by designing art that can wrap around a bus. Designs can be hand-drawn or created digitally. Entries must be received by 4 p.m. Aug. 1
Two grand-prize winners will be selected, and their designs will decorate the outside of a Metro bus.
“This is a great way for younger generations to get involved with public transit and understand the importance it has in everyone’s lives,” said Metro CEO Lauren Cencic.
Metro’s first day of service was July 1, 1972.
The Transit Authority of the City of Omaha was formed after the passage of Nebraska Legislative Bill 275. Metro officials said the bill responded to the patchwork of privately owned and operated companies that competed to serve Omaha and struggled to maintain ridership.
“Omaha has a history of transit, from horse-drawn buggies in the 19th century to the region’s first bus rapid transit line in 2020,” said Amy Haase, Metro board chair. “We can’t wait to see what the next 50 brings for us and the Omaha region.”
That next chapter is potentially huge, as Metro’s board earlier this month voted to shift to a regional focus — signaling expansion of services beyond the city limits that eventually will be guided by an elected governing board.
The change to a regional scope takes effect in August.
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