Metro Transit is Improving Its Service

15 Dec

Metro will run many of its buses more frequently and later into the night on streamlined routes.

In response to feedback received through a recently conducted survey, Metro Transit is making changes to some of its routes and extending its service schedule. The top requests were for more service on weekends, service extended later into the evening, and more frequent service on weekdays. 

The changes proposed by Metro address all three of these desires. For example, Route 2 (which runs down Dodge Street) will now run every 15 minutes on weekdays until 7:00 PM. After that, it will run every 30 minutes until nearly 12:45 AM. On weekends, it will run every 30 minutes until nearly 11:45 PM on Saturdays and 9:45 PM on Sundays. Check out all the proposed changes at Metro’s website. 

The new schedule adds several hours of service each day and increases frequency quite a bit on many of the routes, which is all great. The new service should much better support people that don’t work on the nine-to-five schedule as well as people traveling for reasons other than work. And, while the improved frequencies aren’t quite at the point where a person doesn’t need to check the schedule before heading out to the bus stop, they are getting better.

Regrettably, we don’t pay Metro nearly enough to make these improvements without making changes elsewhere in the system to balance its budget. We support Metro at $36 per capita compared with a median of $56 per capita for similar sized cities. We’ve got to do better than that. 

Fortunately, however, the smart folks over at Metro have been able to free up most of the cash to make the improvements by streamlining some of the routes rather than making huge slashes. So, instead of using some of the very windy routes that define much of our transit system today, Metro will focus on providing more direct service along major roads. While the streamlining will give some people a longer walk to their bus stop, it will shorten other people’s walks while making the overall system much more straightforward and easy to understand.

ModeShift supports Metro with these changes for the reasons noted above and applauds the agency for working to make changes requested by the public within its very limited budget.

If you want to speak out in favor or in opposition to the changes, you can do so in any of the following ways:

  • Attend the public hearing on Wednesday, December 17th, 5:30 – 8:00pm at the Omaha-Douglas County Civic Center,1819 Farnam Street
  • Mail a letter to Metro at Metro PH, 2222 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68102
  • Submit an online comment here.

Comments must be received by December 31st.

Quick Survey & Volunteer Opportunities

2 Dec
We are partnering with Communication Studies students from Creighton University to learn more about our members – loosely defined as anyone generally knowledgeable about our work at Mode Shift Omaha. Our goal is to have a big impact on the transportation issues Omaha faces. Knowing more about you and those passionate about active transportation in Omaha will help us refine our short and long-term transportation advocacy goals. Please click here to take the short (ten minutes, tops) survey .
Mode Shift Volunteer Opportunities! At our recent membership meeting, two short-term volunteer needs arose. First, we’re working closely with the City of Omaha to develop draft procedures for public bike rack requests, selection, and installation. Doing so will create a predictable, transparent and expedited process. If you would like to help research other processes in other cities and map out Omaha’s process, let us know.
The other noteworthy issue where we need your involvement and input relates to the forthcoming Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). As the project unfolds, there will be a role for Mode Shift to play. As such, we’re pulling the core team together now.
In both cases, shoot us an email at info@modeshiftomaha.org if you’re interested.

Graduates of Citizen’s Academy for Omaha’s Future!

10 Nov

Please help us celebrate the graduates of Omaha’s inaugural Citizen’s Academy for Omaha’s Future! We were humbled by the talent and energy of the eighteen participants in this series of workshops that is designed to increase citizen engagement in the planning process. ModeShift Omaha joined forces with Live Well Omaha, Douglas County Health Department, the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, and the Midtown Neighborhood Alliance to deliver the program. RDG Planning & Design participated as a sponsor.

The inaugural class of the Citizen's Academy for Omaha's Future.

The inaugural class of the Citizen’s Academy for Omaha’s Future.

The program culminated in presentations by the participants on topics where they want to see change in Omaha. Here are a few examples of the work that is helping to transform our city’s planning processes:

  • Sally Hopley is thinking of a better pedestrian crossing at Cuming and Saddle Creek;
  • Pell Duvall is helping neighborhood associations reach out to their constituency through direct mail;
  • Christine Ross is working to improve navigability of the bus system for refugees;
  • David Thompson wants to see a community space in Olde Towne Bellevue for increased services;
  • Michael Albanese has drafted a compelling plan to connect UNO to the adjacent neighborhood through a green corridor;
  • Farrah Grant believes that Omaha’s breed-specific canine ordinance needs to go; and
  • Heather Johnson is mobilizing to create a clearer process for stop-sign requests.

In addition to projects such as these, participants engaged in discussion with stakeholders and decision-makers centered around themes such as Complete Streets, Regional Vision, Transportation, and Navigating Government. The information and contacts gained prepare graduates to engage more fully as citizen leaders in the planning process. If you are interested in participating in future classes of the Citizen’s Academy, please join our email list and/or follow us on Facebook.

Please join us in thanking our first graduates for their help in piloting this program:

Citizen’s Academy for Omaha’s Future – 2014 Fall Graduates

  • Michael Albanese
  • Steve Andrews
  • Karen Bahr
  • Goodmond Danielsen
  • Pell Duvall
  • Christina Flaherty-Colling
  • Farrah Grant
  • Sonya Gray
  • Sally Hopley
  • Heather Johnson
  • Caitlin Kolb
  • Kassandra Mayo
  • Nicholas Mayo
  • Christine Ross
  • Cyndonna Tefft
  • David Thompson
  • Matt Wayne
  • Jay Weingarten

Thanks also goes out to our great partners in this endeavor. The organizing committee included:

Because there’s just so much happening!

5 Sep

Quite a bit happening, these days. Here’s the scoop: 

Regarding the Mayor’s Veto
Mayor Stothert has vetoed the amendment to the budget creating a position dedicated to active transportation in the Public Works Department. This position would help ensure the needs of all people moving about our city are met by providing multimodal expertise in the department that actually designs and builds our streets. 

Councilmembers Jerram, Festersen, Gray, and Gernandt voted to pass the original amendment, but we’ll need another vote to override the veto. Contact your city council representative, especially if its Rich Pahls, to let them know that we think Omaha deserves a better transportation system. 

Mode Shift Friendraiser and re-Launch
It’s an exciting time to be a citizen moving around in Omaha! There has been a lot going on lately and we’re proud of the direction we’re pushing things. We are ready to reintroduce ourselves (and tell you about our soon to be legit 501(c)3 status!), give you some other updates, and want to meet all of you that have been so supportive lately! 

Let’s get together for a little “friend-raiser”; we probably won’t say no to your generous monetary donations either but this is mostly a chance to gather and talk about the future of ModeShift Omaha and how you can get involved! More details to come. Just be there.

Special Filmstreams 2014 Cinemateca Screening: Keep on Rolling: The Fantasy of the Automobile co-sponsored by Mode Shift. 
The good people at Filmstreams are once again bringing a great film to Omaha, and the director will be on hand to have a discussion with former City of Omaha Planning Director Steve Jensen about the global and local implications of car culture after the film. September 30 at 7pm. Check out the full 2014 Cinemateca series lineup here. 

2014 Bike Ped Count co-organized by Mode Shift
This year’s Bike Ped Count will run from September 9 – 20. The counts are being complete to collect vital data of typical usage of our facilities in the City. The information will be used to help inform decision makers, help identify locations of high use and help secure funding to improve conditions in the years to come. Help is needed. Please consider volunteering.

 

Citizens Academy co-organized by Mode Shift
Citizens’ Academy for Omaha’s Future is a joint project of Mode Shift Omaha, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, Douglas County Health Department, and Live Well Omaha. The academy seeks to provide knowledge, skills, and connections that graduates will leverage to advocate for their vision for the community. The outcomes for residents are improved community health, more transportation options, and greater equity. Applications are currently being accepted and are due by 5pm on 9/15.

 

Harney Street, Market to Midtown Study
The City will soon schedule a Public Information Open House, which will present displays of project scope, timeline, and preliminary design parameters and representative projects. Two dates being considered are Thursday, September 25th and Monday, September 29th from 4:30 to 7:30 PM.  Location is TBD. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, which is where we’ll post final details.

 

Active Living Advisory Committee
It’s our understanding that the Mayor’s office is taking applications (resume plus the ALAC Supplemental Form) through September 15, although that information isn’t publicly available anywhere. Please consider applying by sending your materials to the Mayor’s office.

 

IN the Neighborhood – Iowa/Nebraska Conference
The city of Omaha is helping organize a conference October 11th geared to residents to encourage and empower stronger neighborhoods.  The conference, IN the Neighborhood- Iowa/Nebraska, will have keynote speakers and breakout sessions to educate and inspire residents on both sides of the river to make their neighborhoods stronger and empower them to make their community better. ModeShift Omaha will be presenting. Get your tickets here. 

 

Pedal Happy Potluck
Monthly potluck with discussion about bike advocacy. Thursday, September 25, 7 – 9pm at Omaha Bicycle Company.

Announcing: The Citizens Academy for Omaha’s Future

5 Sep

Have you been frustrated at how complicated and opaque the planning process can seem in Omaha? Perhaps you’ve wondered why it takes so long to get a street re-paved, a trail completed, or a sidewalk repaired? Do you want to help create the transportation vision for Omaha’s future? If so, ModeShift has just the thing for you: Citizen’s Academy for Omaha’s Future!

ModeShift has been working in partnership with MAPA, Douglas County Health Department, Live Well Omaha, and United Neighborhood Alliances of Omaha to develop the academy. For the $50 tuition, participants get dinner on six Thursdays from October 2nd to November 6th and connections to some of the movers and shakers in Omaha’s planning circle. Applications are due September 15.

Great Progress on the Multimodal Front

26 Aug

Today the Omaha City Council approved the addition of a Complete Streets Healthy Living Manager position to be added to the Public Works in the latter half of 2015. 

It’s important that we all stop and acknowledge just how far we’ve come in one month’s time.

When the City of Omaha budget was released, it did not include the Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator position. According to Mayor Jean Stothert, the position was no longer necessary because “the purpose of this position, the goals have been reached.”

So, for a moment, that was the outlook. It was bleak.

Today, things are very different. The Mayor acted fairly quickly to create the Active Living Advisory Committee and selected Julie Harris to be its first chair. Win.

Soon thereafter, several months of ongoing discussions between several city departments, Omaha by Design and others culminated in an agreement to create the city’s first Complete Streets policy. Win.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) then offered to ramp up its multimodal planning efforts if the city agreed to chip in a few bucks to make it happen. The city obliged. Win.

And finally, a position dedicated to multimodal transportation – a balanced transportation coordinator – was restored into the budget. As it stands today, the City Council approved a position in Public Works and the Mayor agreed to a similar position in Planning. There’s still the possibility of a veto, so we’ll see where this shakes out. Nevertheless, we’ll call it a win. 

That’s some pretty legit progress in the last 4–5 weeks, and its largely due to the unbelievable grassroots activism of multimodal advocates like you. You stood in the rain at a bike/ped rally. You contacted your city council members. You attended and spoke up at the budget hearing. You blew up social media. You wrote to the Public Pulse. You responded to media requests.

The end result of your hard work is that we are in a far better position now that we were before the Mayor’s office announced the elimination of the Bike/Ped Coordinator. We completely flipped the trajectory and drove the conversation and decisions.

Good work, people. Very good work. Now comes the hard part: holding the city accountable to what it agreed to do. As ModeShift continues its progress to formalize into a legal entity, we commit to continually pushing the conversation forward and holding our elected officials and other decision-makers accountable. But we need your help.

Are you with us?

We’re re-launching on September 22. Come say hi, celebrate today’s victory, and learn what Mode Shift’s plans are for moving forward. House of Loom. 6:00 – 9:00pm.

Status of the City’s Multimodal Plans

21 Aug

It’s been a crazy few days on the city budget front with a big meeting with the Mayor on Monday and a budget resolution from Councilperson Jerram introduced on Wednesday. Here’s a quick synopsis and summary of where we stand.

Mayor Stothert, who was joined by several upper-level staff members, generously pulled together a meeting on Monday to 1) clarify her proposed plans for multimodal efforts and 2) get some feedback from the active transportation community.

The Mayor’s plans are as follows:

  1. Active Living Advisory Committee (ALAC)
  2. Deliver a Complete Streets policy in nine months
  3. A slightly expanded role for comprehensive transportation personnel at the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA), with funds from the City of Omaha to assist
  4. A position in the Planning Department that is dedicated to multimodal transportation – a balanced transportation coordinator

The Mayor’s ALAC has already been formed by executive order. The wheels are turning, and Julie Harris will be an excellent leader. The Mayor articulated a desire to ensure the Committee is effective, and we wholeheartedly agree.

The effort to create a Complete Streets policy has been in the works for several months. Omaha by Design is convening and facilitating, and there is involvement on the Working Group from a good list of stakeholders; HDR, the Planning, Public Works, Parks & Recreation Departments, the Mayor’s Office, Douglas County Health Department, Alegent Creighton Health, and LiveWell. Their scope of work includes extracting and synching references to Complete Streets from ten other city plans (i.e., Transportation Master Plan, Environmental Element, Urban Design Handbook, Green Streets Guide) into one policy.

MAPA currently has staff that work on multimodal planning to some extent. They offered to ramp up their efforts with a regional focus but asked the City to chip in a few dollars to help make it happen. The Mayor indicated the City is on board.

There weren’t many details on the dedicated position within the Planning Department. The Mayor revealed that the City has funds available in the existing budget to pay for one additional full-time position since a City Planner position is currently vacant. The balanced transportation coordinator could be filled by a new hire, or a current employee could be shifted into the role. James Thele, Planning Director, is working on mapping it out.

Overall, we are encouraged by the Mayor’s plans. If implemented effectively, Omaha will be well ahead of where we are today. The key is execution.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Councilperson Chris Jerram introduced a budget resolution that adds a Complete Streets Active Living position in the Public Works Department in the second half of the 2015 budget year (following the completion of the Complete Streets policy).

We like the idea of having staff focused on multimodal transportation in both the Planning and Public Works departments. Both are important. And in our view, it’s an appropriate allocation of resources to have both.

We’ll be following the progress over the coming days and will continue to share updates on our website and via social media. The final budget deliberations and voting will occur at the August 26 City Council meeting at 2pm. See you there.

For more information and coverage, see today’s Omaha World Herald article