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Five Questions for . . . the MCC Board District 2 Candidates

17 Oct

Metro Community College’s board is divided into specific geographies (as well as an at-large seat). District 2 covers much of Northeast Omaha, including the Fort Omaha Campus. MCC has been a leader in post-secondary institutions promoting Active Transportation. This Friday, October 19, at 8 a.m. we’ve invited the candidates for the District 2 board seat to be our guests at our monthly coffee chat. We’ll be meeting up at the Scooters in the corner of 30th and Ames Ave.

To get to know the candidates ahead of time, we asked them five questions . . .

Erin Feichtinger

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
Walking and my bike (thanks Bike Union!)

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
We are a car-centered city – a fact reflected in the continued sprawl westward without the appropriate infrastructure to support it, introducing bonds expanding roads to hold more cars, prioritizing streets at the expense of sidewalks, and a lack of interest in the kind of urban density that would put employment centers close to where people live and to accessible transportation. All of this leads to a lack of awareness of multi-modal transportation and so, a lack of prioritization in the public will. It’s pretty frustrating.

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
Promoting active transportation in Omaha is a multi-layered issue that’s going to have to be addressed at several levels, so it’s hard to say what is the greatest success. The trail system is a massive and successful public infrastructure that I love to utilize. There are neighborhoods in the city that promote walkability and so, attracting people who like the idea of living close to where they work and where they play, and this is changing the conversation about transportation from “Let’s drive there” to, “Let’s walk up to…” (Dundee, Gifford Park, the Old Market, Benson, North 24th St., for example). Metro Area Transit has been receptive to community input about improving their services which has been a huge benefit to the people who need it most – like the #24 increasing its frequency to 15 minute intervals to serve communities who most need it to get to work and to social services. Really, though, the greatest success is the fact that this conversation about how to promote active transit is taking place at all, and that it’s having an impact across the spectrum – we have a bike lane on Leavenworth! Community bike shops! Rapid Bus Transit coming! Now we just need to fix the sidewalks to protect pedestrians all across the city.

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?
Growing up in West Omaha, not exactly a paragon of multi-modal transportation, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to questions of transportation. Then I moved to Chicago for school. Though everyone there has their frustrations with transit, the necessity and convenience of an effective multi-modal transportation infrastructure was thrown in sharp relief. I rode the train or the bus every day and it took me everywhere I could want to go. I rode my bike to and from school and work along the lake shore path, the north river trail, and the bike lanes all over the city. I walked everywhere I could. And what you start to realize is that when you’re not in a car, you experience the world and your community so much more intimately, and in Technicolor. Moving back home to Omaha, the lack of an effective and sprawling public transportation system was inconvenient, to say the least. The work I do every day, designing programs to help increase access to necessary social services for people who need them, cements even further how crucial it is to promote accessible and multi-modal transportation. It’s hard to tell someone to go to this particular place at this particular time if they don’t have access to a vehicle. The lack of access to transportation that is close to where people live and where they work and the services they need is a huge and unnecessary barrier.

5. If you could magically change one thing about the transportation systems in Omaha, without limit to budget or feasibility, what would it be
Increase the frequency of every bus route. Put in more visible bus signs that explain what bus is coming, the route, and its frequency. Provide training for every Omahan on how to ride and navigate public transportation free of charge, especially focusing on collaborating with social service agencies and the public schools. Increase the number of routes and make them go further west and to employment centers. Protected bike lanes. Education for drivers on how to share the road with cyclists and pedestrians. Protected sidewalks along busy roads like Dodge. ADA sidewalks EVERYWHERE.

My answers are a bit long – I just get really jazzed about this topic.

Brad Ashby

Declined to respond.

Five Questions for . . . Candidates for Nebraska Legislative District 6

18 Jul

Legislative District 6 straddles the east and west of I-680 and north and south of Dodge Street. If there was a nexus of the East/West divide in Omaha, it would be LD-6. With regard to transportation policy, LD-6 finds itself as a focal point of Omaha’s future, with the planned ORBT route running straight down the middle.

Map of Legislative District 6
click image for larger file

The top two vote collectors in this Spring’s primary election were incumbent, Sen. Theresa Thibodeau and challenger Machaela Cavanaugh. We will be talking to both of them, this Friday at our monthly Coffee Chat. We’ll be meeting at 8 a.m. at the Crane Coffee at 78th and Cass to discuss transportation issues, the state legislature and District 6. To get to know the candidates a little better, we asked them five questions . . .

Theresa Thibodeau

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
Currently my preferred mode of transportation is my car, as that is what makes sense for my family and my job. I own a business in La Vista and there is no other means of transportation to get to La Vista.

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
The greatest challenge to multi modal transportation is cost and how it will be funded.

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
I believe Omaha made great strides with the bike sharing system in the Aksarben and downtown areas, as well as the new Omaha Rapid bus Transit system. This system will make traveling in the metro easier and safer and will allow people to get to their destination more quickly.

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?
As a business owner and participant in Leadership Omaha, I became interested in transportation as it is important for a metropolitan area to have reliable and safe means for people to get around the city whether it be for work, school or recreation.

5. If you could magically change one thing about the transportation systems in Omaha, without limit to budget or feasibility, what would it be?
The one thing I would change about the transportation system in Omaha is I would broaden the areas of service. Currently there is not a means of transportation from Omaha to its surrounding cities. Having a means of transportation is important for families and businesses as it allows people to get to where there are available jobs.

Machaela Cavanaugh

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
Walking.

Walking allows me the best opportunity to interact with my surroundings and see my community. However, it can be frightening, particularly when I am walking with my children on high-speed streets where the sidewalk is not significantly separated from the flow of traffic.

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
Omaha has some serious structural challenges to multi-modal transit such as our large geographic footprint and lack of population density, but our greatest challenge, as it is in most American communities, is mindset. Too often for members of our community the automobile is the only mode of transit considered. Some of this can be changed by improving multi-modal infrastructure, but unless we see other people actually walking on our sidewalks to the neighborhood grocery store, riding in the bike lane to work, or taking the bus for a night out, we won’t consider it as an option for ourselves.

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
I am very excited about the bus rapid transit proposal for Dodge street. BRT is a great option for Omaha and the ORBT will run through the heart of the 6th district offering residents of the district a great tool for traveling east to west quickly and reliably.

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?
Through my work on early childhood education I have come to see the essential role that transportation plays in proving opportunity to young children. If we want our children to grow up healthy and thrive, their parents need to be able to reach quality jobs, quality childcare, affordable and nutritious food, and cultural and recreational areas. A robust transit system can make all of these community assets more accessible to all families, regardless of their wealth or income.

5. If you could magically change one thing about the transportation systems in Omaha, without limit to budget or feasibility, what would it be?
Just one thing?! It would be wonderful to provide all public transit free of cost to riders. This would increase accessibility for those who most need transit, but it could also encourage others to take experimental trips and explore the feasibility of using transit in their everyday life. Every trip that we can migrate from a car to a bus is one less car on the street that day. Fewer cars on the street benefits us all, regardless of our chosen mode of travel.

Five Questions for . . . Curtis Wilson of Bike Union!

7 Jun

Curtis Wilson is the Operations Manager of Bike Union and he will be our guest (and host!) Friday, June 15th, for our monthly coffee chat. Bike Union is a full service bike shop and coffee house dedicated to providing workforce and personal development to youth aging out of foster care and to strengthening our community as a whole. We’ll talk to Curtis about the Bike Union model, and the good they do in the community, but first, we asked him five questions.

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
I prefer to ride my bike any chance I get. Though most days I end up driving to work because throughout the day the youth in our program tend to require transportation to different appointments and errands.

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
General public awareness/acceptance of multi-modal transportation and a true desire on motorists part to share the road. I have had more close calls with vehicles on my bike in Omaha than any other place I have lived.

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
The Leavenworth/St. Mary’s bike lane gives us an example of what is possible in Omaha in regards to safer cycling routes. It would be great to see more miles of that type of infrastructure.

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?
As a cyclist I use my bike for transportation and recreation. Being on the road with motor vehicles and being concerned for my and my friends safety has given me an interest in multi-modal transportation. Also, a lot of our youth program participants use some form of multi-modal transportation on a daily basis.

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 a network of protected bike lanes linking the entire city. With the emphasis being on linking every part of the city, so cycling could become a more feasible transportation solution for all people.