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Change Lives With Better Transportation Options

17 Dec

Blog Post Collaboration between UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute and Mode Shift Omaha

Many of the groups that Mode Shift Omaha is in conversation with are those that represent individuals facing major challenges in their ability to access affordable transportation in Omaha that will get them to work, school, or desired destinations. One such group is UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI).  They work with individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Recently, MMI  received the results of the National Core Indicators (NCI) Adult In-Person Survey, which is a collaborative effort between the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, the Human Services Research Institute and U.S. states. The purpose of the program is to support states collecting a standard set of developmental disability related performance and outcome measures to maximize effectiveness of developmental disability services.

Respondents were asked to identify their most significant support need in the survey. Nearly a third of Nebraska individuals listed transportation – which is a higher percentage than the national average. There are many reasons why the transportation issues are so much greater for Nebraska residents.  One is that Medicaid changes have made it so that only Medicaid Service Providers can bill Medicaid.  Therefore, individuals can’t directly buy a bus pass or pay for ZTrip – this adds a layer of complexity that makes many unable to utilize available transportation dollars. A region specific issue may be the low funding we have for public transportation.  Heartland 2050’s website shows that Omaha spends $36 per capita on transit, which is among the lowest in the nation.  The average is $78 per capita. Dayton. Ohio, which is smaller than Omaha, spends $91 per capita. Denver spends $206, Salt Lake City $229 and Pittsburgh $232. 

We want to advocate for better transportation options with the staff at Munroe-Meyer Institute and the individuals they serve.  Progress in this area will give individuals with disabilities much more independence and increase their ability to practice self-determination.  Lack of transportation is a major barrier to getting and keeping a job, leads to loneliness as it is harder to socialize with friends and family – and is even a barrier to simply getting and keeping a doctor (some have lost access to doctors based on being late to appointments due to issues with paratransit service).   If we can improve on this issue in our city it could truly be life changing for many.  

Ryan O and Crystal Edwards Talk the Walk

12 Dec

Mode Shift Board Member and Walkability Team Chair spoke to Ryan Osentowski, Station Manager of the Radio Talking Book Service .  Their 45 minute conversation is wide-reaching and covers many fascinating topics – like status, cars, economics, change making and many topics in between.  Listen to Ryan speak about his experiences living as a blind person in Kearney, Lincoln, Denver and Omaha – and how walkability and good transit impact his quality of life.  Listen as they discuss how Denver has less of a stigma around walking and transit than most of our midwestern cities – and how community is built on the light rail.

Pictured: Light Rail in Denver, Colorado

Listen as they talk about how to effect change.  Crystal talks about how we have to stop accepting poor services or infrastructure as par for the course or something we deserve – the more we speak up about the issues facing us the more change will happen. (So, keep reporting to the Mayor’s Hotline everyone – and go to Metro Transit’s Monthly Board Meetings)

If you only have a few minutes to listen – fast forward to the 40 minute mark.  Ryan and Crystal talk about their dreams. (Think pedestrian and bike super-highway for one.)  They may seem impossible – but are reminiscent of Daniel Burnham, the great 20th century architect and urban planner who is known for saying:

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.

Listen to this – and then go out and make some big plans.

A Community Conversation

11 Nov

If you would like an overview of the mission and work of Mode Shift Omaha, take 30 minutes to listen as Board Member Crystal Edwards speaks to Jane Nielsen of the Radio Talking Book Service.  Radio Talking Book Service (RTBS) serves Nebraska and southwest Iowa with a mission to provide human-voiced information choices to individuals who are blind, visually impaired, or have physical disabilities which prevent them from reading. Crystal’s relationship with RTBS began after Mode Shift volunteers worked at a spring health fair and spoke to visually impaired adults about their transportation options in Omaha.

In this wide-ranging community conversation Crystal talks about the work that all the Mode Shift Omaha Teams are doing – and then highlights the work of the walkability team, which she chairs.  They talk about transportation challenges faced by blind and visually impaired people in Omaha; from a RTBS staff member having to navigate down an icy hill to get to their MOBY ride – to a story of a blind woman and her young child trying to navigate around construction at 72nd and Dodge.  These experiences make it clear that we need good policies and ordinances related to sidewalk users at construction sites – and that we all need to be mindful of the importance of keeping our sidewalks clear in the winter weather.

Please enjoy this thoughtful and interesting podcast.  Just for fun, be the first to share what mode of transportation Crystal was using when she recently encountered a pothole.