Bicycling, Safety, Street Design, Transportation Master Plan, Walking|

Kevin Carder, City Planner with the City of Omaha, attended Mode Shift’s March Membership Meeting to discuss elements of the Connect Omaha Active Mobility Plan that is scheduled to be completed in Fall 2023. 

The Active Mobility Plan is occurring in synergy with many other City planning efforts that have either just been completed or are ongoing, including the ConnectGo Regional Transportation Strategy, Urban Core Master Plan, Vision Zero Action Plan, and the City of Omaha Complete Streets Design Guide. Last month, we heard from Jeff Sobczyk who is leading the Vision Zero Active Plan effort. While the plans are connected, the Vision Zero plan identifies actions aimed at eliminating traffic deaths and injuries, while the Active Mobility Plan envisions the future network for active transportation and identifies key projects for Omaha to achieve that vision. 

The plan began by conducting a study network, examining the current conditions using a Level of Service (LOS)evaluation. Finally, a number of different methods were used to determine which streets have the highest potential for walk/bike/active mobility trips. The resulting map outlines conditions of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. On average, Omaha’s infrastructure ranks at a C-. 

Demand analysis was then conducted, which looked at three types of demand: revealed demand (demand from actual count data), latent demand (using actual destinations and land use patterns to estimate active transportation potential), and stated demand (direct feedback from the public). Downtown was identified as having a high amount of latent demand for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, while stated demand drew attention to many different locations around Omaha. 

The first chapter of the plan is currently being reviewed by the task force. The final plan will outline goals and example objectives. Strategies will then be prioritized, and gaps identified including accessibility concerns. Policies and programs will be recommended. The plan will be drafted by late summer, go to the public for comments, then the final version will be presented to City Council by November. 

Kevin shared that funding is the biggest challenge to ensuring the plan is implemented (Kevin estimates that less than one quarter of plans created have been implemented in the past). The City is using the plan as a tool to seek federal and other funding, as it sets a bolder vision for what type of connected network Omaha can create. The plan may help Omaha in receiving grant funding, or incorporating improvements into existing projects that are already funded. 

In response to a question about how to ensure strong implementation, Kevin encouraged Mode Shift and the public to share with officials how much existing infrastructure is appreciated, and the benefits of having an on-street bike system and better walkability.  He mentioned that many stakeholders don’t appreciate the benefits provided by strong bike and pedestrian infrastructure.  

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