Numerous transit companies, all privately owned and operated, competed in providing transportation for Metropolitan Omaha and surrounding communities from 1867 until June 30, 1972…when declining ridership forced the remaining two transit providers, the Omaha Transit Company and the City Transit Lines, Inc. of Council Bluffs, to curtail service.
As ridership declined, farebox revenues fell short of covering all expenses. With farebox revenues their sole source of income, both transit companies were forced to take measures in order to increase their income. The Omaha Transit Company applied to the Nebraska Railway Commission for a fare increase of five (5) cents, which would have permanently raised the fare from forty (40) to forty-five (45) cents. City Transit Lines, under the justification of the City of Council Bluffs, applied to the city for an increase in city subsidy or a fare increase. Both companies’ requests were respectively denied and they were left with no alternative, but to discontinue service. Please read the World Herald Article. The private transit providers in Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa, exempt from federal subsidies available to public transit providers with the passage of the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964, could not compete with the public’s increasing preference for private ownership of the automobile. After the announcement of the discontinuance of private transit service, the Railway Commission granted a temporary five (5) cent fare increase. Please read the World Herald article. This was done to enable the Omaha Transit Company to remain in service until June 30, 1972, when either the City of Omaha or State of Nebraska would assume responsibility for public transportation in Omaha. City Transit Lines agreed as well to remain in service under the existing subsidy until June 30, 1972.
Saved by the Bill
In response to Metropolitan Omaha’s need for public transportation, the 82nd Nebraska State Legislature passed Legislative Bill 1275 “enabling” the creation of the Transit Authority, City of Omaha, a governmental subdivision of the State of Nebraska autonomous in nature. The Authority, consisting of a five (5) member board appointed by the mayor and confirmed by Omaha’s City Council and the Douglas County Commissioners, was sworn in and took office on May 30, 1972. Under the provisions of the enabling status, the Authority shall have and retain full and exclusive jurisdiction and control over all public passenger transportation systems in the City of Omaha excluding taxicabs and railroad systems.
The Authority, subsidized by $3,507,647 financial assistance grant from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, United States Department of Transportation, and with the authority to levy a tax on all tangible real and personal property in the City of Omaha, acquired the assets of the Omaha Transit Company and selected assets of the City Transit Lines of Council Bluffs. If the full amount of taxes certified and collected in any year is not needed for current purposes, the balance shall be credited to reserves to be used for acquisition of necessary property and equipment.
Metro Area Transit
The Authority, operating under the service name “Metro Area Transit” (MAT), assumed responsibility for public transit operations in Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa at 12:01 a.m., July 1, 1972…with fares reduced from forty-five (45) to forty (40) cents.
While Metro is responsible for the administration and operation of transit service in both Metropolitan Omaha and surrounding communities, funds obtained form Omaha’s tax levy cannot be used to offset transit service operating expenses incurred outside of Omaha.
Transit service outside of the Omaha city limits is provided by contractual agreement between Metro and the respective political jurisdictions and agencies, wherein they agree to reimburse Metro for all operating expenses not recovered through farebox receipts and federal and state subsidies. The level of service, miles and hours of operation, is dictated by individual contract.
Currently, Metro has three service contracts. These contracts and their implementation date are:
- Council Bluffs, Iowa – July 1, 1972
- Bellevue, Nebraska – October 31, 1972
- Tri-Communities (Ralston, LaVista, Papillion, Nebraska) – June 10, 1974