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Metro buses exempt from city regulations, making changes amid coronavirus

Posted at 5:03 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 19:16:32-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On a typical weekday in Omaha, around 13,000 people use a bus to do things like go to work, get groceries or go to the doctor.

But, with the coronavirus disrupting so many lives, only 5,700 rode Metro Transit last week on the weekdays.

Metro Transit director Curt Simon says that under the guidance of the Federal Transit Administration and state, the buses are exempt from rules like having 10 or less people, but they’re still trying to encourage social distancing.

"Back on about March 25, we instituted rear-door boarding only, in order to create some space between our bus drivers at the fare box and the passengers," Simon said.

Passengers who need handicap-accessible entrance to the buses can still use the front door, and all passengers are now be able to ride the bus without paying a fare. Simon said that the agency is getting funding from the federal stimulus package for things like upkeep and maintenance.

Metro Transit has also reduced its weekday service level so the bus routes operate like they would on a less- busy Saturday.

Simon is also talking with his staff about installing plexiglass to give drivers an extra layer of protection.

Like many, Metro Transit is having to overcome barriers to continue providing service, but there is a brightside. With less traffic, the construction for the RideORBT project is moving along quickly.

"Because of the less traffic that's out there, we're able to accelerate some of our construction, because the station locations are on Dodge street. So actually, the lack of traffic has been of benefit to the construction, kind of sped things up a little bit."