Five Questions for Kim Schnitzer

14 Jan

Join us this Friday for our monthly coffee chat. We will be meeting up at 8 a.m. at the Scooters on 30th and Ames. This month, we talk with Kim Schnitzer, vocational coach, about the challenges her clients encounter accessing effective transportation. We asked her five questions . . .

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?

My personal vehicle is my preferred mode of Transportation.  I live in Bellevue and there aren’t many affordable choices for public transportation that I qualify for, as most are based on disability.  I do use uber and lyft when my car needs service. They are good in a pinch, but are not sustainable, the total is about $40 per day by the time I drop my son off at school and pick him up.

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?

It seems to me that the Omaha Transit system has operated on the premise “If people use the system we will expand”  that being said,  it is difficult for people to use a system that fails to provide access to huge areas of the city.  I think when we look at transit systems in cities of similar size, we can see that they are designed to move the workforce from their homes to their places of employment.  In Omaha there are huge gaps in the location of employers and the places were public transit goes.  This deficit has forced employers such as OTC, PayPal and Embassy Suites to work with other entities to provide affordable transportation to their work force. 

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?

I think Metro has done a good job of keeping riding the bus affordable.  When compared with other Midwestern cities (Minneapolis, Chicago, Des Moines, Denver, Kansas City, Wichita)  the Metro bus passes are $ .50 to $3 less.  That may not seem like a huge difference, but many of my clients live on a fixed income of less than $1000 per month,  $ .50 can truly be a huge amount of money. 

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?

I work with individuals who are blind or visually impaired, most of them do not drive and rely on  public transportation.  These clients face real life challenges when trying to navigate the city for jobs and services.  I would like to advocate for a bus system that truly provides equal access to everyone in the city. 

5. If you could magically change one thing about the transportation systems in Omaha, without limit to budget or feasibility, what would it be?

I would love to see our transportation system more closely modeled after the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  I love the light rail and how it works in conjunction with the bus system to expand and provide transportation all over the city.  I would love to see a system that provides efficient transportation from the northeast corridor of Omaha to the south west corridor and West Dodge

Omaha at Human Scale: Working Parent and Transit

2 Jan

This will be the final edition of this run of Omaha at Human Scale. We look forward to 2019 being a year of activity and activism for Mode Shift Omaha.

Nicole Wheeler is Vice Chair of the Mode Shift Board of Directors.

As a working parent, I am always running from work to school to someone’s evening activity. I spend my days working in advertising at Hudl and my husband, Ted, and I operate a roving bookstore, Dundee Book Company, in our free time. When I moved from my job at Yahoo in West Omaha to the downtown Hudl office, one of the many perks in making the job change was that I would finally be able to take the bus to work. I have  been interested in the effects of climate change since I was a child and the fact that I couldn’t take the biggest step of limiting my driving had always bothered me. Being able to make this change was something that allowed me to live true to my personal values and show my children how to do so as well.

Ted at the Bus Stop

Ted is a writer and works from home and is able to walk our kids to school each day. The number 2 bus is in close proximity to our home. The times when Ted is out of town for extended periods of time really puts our bus riding to the test. If the children are at different locations, pick up and drop off become a long planned journey with several stops. These trips serve as a great teaching moment, when I can show my kids that they can navigate the city via bus and teach them how to do so on their own. We also run errands together on the bus, which is a great lesson in only buying things you need and things that you really want to carry home.

Our days typically start with Ted walking the kids to school, while I take the bus downtown. We leave around the same time, walk a few blocks together and part ways where I head for the bus and everyone else heads for the school. The kids usually stay for clubs or after-school care, as our jobs go until 5 or 6 pm. If I need to pick them up, I take the bus one stop further than normal and can be at the school in a few minutes walk time. From there, we can walk home via the Dodge St. subway/underpass, lugging backpacks and musical instruments the few blocks it takes to get there. Having to carry all of that home really highlights how much stuff kids are carrying around all day long. The walk home is a great time to decompress and have a conversation about everyone’s days.

Waiting patiently for the bus

For other parents who would like to try and take the bus, I would suggest first, waiting until the time is right in your life. If it doesn’t work for you with small babies, then give yourself a break and wait until it does. Secondly, see if you can switch your mode once or twice a week. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and taking the bus even a few times a week can alleviate an enormous amount of commuting-driven stress. I’ve met very few parents who wouldn’t love 30 minutes to themselves and the bus is a great chance to get that.

Back on the Bus!

I’m happiest getting around Omaha by bus and I would rather move to a city with more public transit than have to rely on a car again, but none of this would work for me without a spouse who works close to our children’s school; a flexible, supportive employer; a good supply of quality base layer clothing and a lot of sunscreen. I’m privileged to have all those things and I’ve met many wonderful people on the bus who don’t have any other choice but to rely on the bus – with or without that same support. Our system works for me, but as we continue to mature it, I hope that it can work for everyone.

Get Involved in Omaha’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

1 Jan
Thanks to some recent efforts by the City, Omaha’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) looks better than ever. But despite these improvements, it is ultimately a meaningless long term plan because the City deviates substantially from it every year without explanations, visibility, accountability, or public engagement.
Why does this matter? Considering the 2019 CIP includes over $200 million of Omaha property tax funds, taxpayers deserve a process that:
  1. Engages the public
  2. Explains why some projects get funds and others don’t
  3. Explains why some projects proceed even when their cost skyrockets past the prior year’s estimate and they are years behind schedule
The City’s Planning Committee, led by Pete Festersen, and includes Brinker Harding, and Rich Pahls, is considering making some changes to the CIP. This gives us a chance to propose some changes that will make the CIP a meaningful planning document.
So how can you get involved? Mode Shift proposes these actions in January:
  • Form 3 teams – one for each City Council member of the planning committee.
  • Review our proposed CIP changes with the teams to fine tune them and so that each team is knowledgeable about the issues (we have a resource page to help you be more informed here or view this detailed video)
  • Meet with the three Council member to advocate for the changes.
  • Emphasize public involvement with specific steps that the City could perform. We’ll ask for the full process to be in place by January 2020, but we’ll include some sample public requests with your help such as:
    • Reviving our effort for a bicycle lane program
    • Re-instating the Leavenworth project that disappeared without any explanations last summer
    • Perhaps a pedestrian project?
  • Publish blogs and videos in January. Let us know if you want to contribute! Email joanna@modeshiftomaha.org
We need your help to make this happen. Join us on January 23, 2019 – 7 p.m. at UNO’s Community Engagement Center for a Mode Shift member meeting where we will form the teams and begin the steps outlined above.