Omaha’s BRT System

27 Jan

There is currently an Omaha Metro Transit plan for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, and they have received a 2014 federal TIGER grant of just under $15 million, which would cover a majority of the initial costs. The route will connect “Westroads Mall, Methodist Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Crossroads Village, UNO, UNMC, Midtown Crossing and Downtown Omaha” (from http://www.ometro.com/tiger ).

from Omaha Metro TIGER grant application

from Omaha Metro TIGER grant application

The Central Omaha Transit Alternatives Analysis lists the primary components of BRT:

from Omaha Metro TIGER grant application

from Omaha Metro TIGER grant application

“ – Advanced bus service
– Operates in mixed traffic and/or dedicated lanes
– Low floor buses with multiple doors
– Accommodates maximum of 3 bicycles on front of bus
– Preferential bus treatments (queue jumps, traffic signal priority)
– Specially branded service
– Custom stops and shelters
– Shares travel lanes and stops with other buses
– 40-90 passengers per vehicle”

A route with these features would do a lot to improve mobility in the Omaha area, but costs, political concerns, and a tight project timeline could pressure the project partners to make sacrifices that reduce quality. We’re keeping on top of developments, and we need your help to help make sure we end up with a top notch system. Come out to the Mode Shift meeting on Wednesday January 28 from 7-8:30 at The Pizza Shoppe Collective, 6056 Maple St. You can also contact us to join the Mode Shift BRT Taskforce and stay up to date on BRT in Omaha through info@modeshift.org.

Support LB39 Bike Safety Legislation

14 Jan
Please support Legislative Bill 39, which would increase safety for cyclists and provide clarity for motorists and law enforcement:
  • Motorists would be required to follow the same laws for passing bikes as for passing cars
  • Repeals the “mandatory sidepath law”
  • Gives the right of way to cyclists when operating lawfully in a crosswalk
Here is a summary of action that you can take:
  • Send an email of support to Senator Jim Smith
  • Send an email of support to all senators on the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
  • Contact your state senator by the morning of January 20th
  • Attend the hearing on January 20 at 1:30 PM.

Details about senator contact information and hearing location are provided below.

We believe that the common sense legal clarifications strengthen the rights of people on bicycles (and on foot), clarify a motorist’s responsibilities, and assist law enforcement in their ability to enforce the laws that apply in these instances.

Details about LB39

LB 39 is an enhanced passing law making it clear for motorists and law enforcement, and safer for cyclists.

First, it further defines the actions people in vehicles must take to pass a cyclist.  LB 1030, passed in 2012, mandated that three feet of clearance be given when possible when passing a person on a bicycle, foot, or motorized wheelchair; LB 39 clarifies that motorists would be required to follow the same passing laws for bikes as they do for cars:  using lane markings where applicable, changing lanes to pass if needed, giving no less than three feet of clearance.  This is easier for motorists to remember and visible easier for law enforcement to enforce.

Second, it repeals the ‘mandatory sidepath law’ that states “… whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a highway, a person operating a bicycle shall use such path and shall not use such highway.”  These types of mandatory use laws are problematic for people on bikes, and the League of American Bicyclists, Legal Affairs Committee states:

Laws that mandate that a bicyclist use a particular facility undermine the ability of a bicyclist to protect him or herself when those facilities are not well planned, designed, and/or maintained….There are numerous operational reasons why a dedicated bike facility might be rendered unsafe or impractical — such as an accumulation of debris, illegally parked vehicles, the need to make a left turn — and in such cases cyclists need to be able to ride in the adjacent or parallel travel lanes without fear of prosecution.

Third, LB 39 gives people on a bike the right of way when operating lawfully in a crosswalk. Under current laws, a person on a bike that is riding lawfully in a marked crosswalk could be ticketed for failure to yield if hit by a person in a car.  This is especially problematic for multi-use trails that have at grade street crossings.

Finally, this bill clarifies that people on bicycles may legally ride two abreast on highway shoulders when it is wide enough to do so.

LB39 was introduced by Senator Rick Kolowski from Omaha. Click here for the complete content of the bill. LB 39 should not be confused with another bill on bike safety that Sen. Kolowski has introduced (LB 38, which does not yet have a hearing date scheduled).

Action: Contact Senator Jim Smith
Send an email of support directly to Senator Jim Smith, who is the Chairman of the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee, at jsmith@leg.ne.gov.

  • Indicate in the email that you want your message to part of the record.
  • Be sure and list your name and address or your information will likely be disregarded.
  • Indicate why you support this bill and why you think it should pass. Give examples of your own cycling situations with motorists that may help the cause.

Action: Contact the Committee and your Senator
Send an email to all of the senators on the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee, as well as your own senator. The committee members are:

Sen. Jim Smith – Chairman – Omaha
Sen. Lydia Brasch – Vice Chair – West Point
Sen. Al Davis – Hyannis
Sen. Tommy Garrett – Bellevue
Sen. Beau McCoy – Omaha
Sen. John Murante – Gretna
Sen. Les Seiler – Hastings

Action: Attend the Hearing
A hearing date is set for LB 39 on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm in Room 1113, the Ernie Chambers Hearing Room, along the southwest hallway of the Capitol. There are two other bills that will be heard first. If you want to attend the hearing to show support, and sign in, that would be very useful.

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.